All questions

Intellectual property

i Brand search

The Hong Kong government's Intellectual Property Department (IPD) maintains an online central database of trademarks, patents and registered designs. Anyone can access the database for free via the internet and search for intellectual property currently registered with the IPD. Alternatively, the IPD provides a service where they can perform the search for a small fee.

ii Brand protection

Trademarks are protected first by registering with the IPD. Registration requires the completion of an application form that can be downloaded from the IPD website. The application must then be submitted to the IPD in person or by post, together with the application fee (HK$2,000 for one class as of December 2018). The IPD will then review the application to ensure that all the required information has been provided.

A search will then be conducted to ensure there are no conflicts. If conflicts are cleared, the IPD will publish a public notice that the application has been filed. There is a three-month period from the date of publication of the notice during which an objection to the application can be filed. If there have not been any objections, the IPD will issue a certificate of registration at the end of the period. The official date of registration of the trademark will be the filing date of the application.

iii Enforcement

Enforcement of intellectual property rights is performed through the Hong Kong Courts. The process of filing a claim against a trademark infringer follows the same process as that of a normal civil claim (see Section VI). Failure to comply with a court order will be considered contempt of court, punishable by a fine or imprisonment.

More importantly, in Hong Kong, enforcement of provisions under the Copyright Ordinance, the Trade Description Ordinance and the Trademark Ordinance that give rise to a criminal offence are undertaken by the Customs and Excise Department, which has been given broad powers, including seizing and removing articles that may be infringing copies of a copyright work and entering and searching premises to carry out its duties, upon obtaining of a warrant from a magistrate.

iv Data protection, cybercrime, social media and e-commerce

Hong Kong does not have any specific legislation regulating social media or e-commerce. Activities will be regulated under general law.

In relation to personal data and data protection, the primary legislation is the Personal Data (Privacy) Ordinance (PDPO). The PDPO governs the use of personal data, which is defined as any data that relates to a living individual from which it is practicable for the identity of the individual to be ascertained. Collection of personal data is only allowed if the individual is first informed of the purpose for which the data is to be used; and the classes of persons to whom the data may be transferred. Personal data may not be used for a new purpose without the prescribed consent of the individual.

Any collection and use of personal data for direct marketing purposes requires the express consent of the individuals concerned.

Franchises must ensure that all personal data that has been collected are accurate and are protected against unauthorised or accidental access, processing, erasure, loss or use. Franchises must also ensure that the personal data collected are accessible to the individual they relate to upon the individual's request for access or correction.

Personal data collected may not be retained for longer than is necessary for the fulfilment of the purpose for which they were obtained.

On cybercrime, the Telecommunications Ordinance expressly provides for a number of criminal offences relating to unauthorised access of data contained on a computer.