Setting Sail for Hong Kong: An Intellectual Property Practice Committee Initiative
A Singapore delegation of 12 lawyers, led by Chairperson of the Law Society of Singapore’s Intellectual Property Practice Committee Mr Jonathan Foong, set off for Hong Kong on a mission from 4–7 December 2018 to build on existing linkages with the Law Society of Hong Kong and to explore business opportunities for the benefit of Intellectual Property (IP) law practices in Singapore. The mission also coincided with the Business of IP Asia Forum, co-organised by the Hong Kong Trade Development Council that was held from 6-7 December 2018 in Hong Kong.
Day One, 4 December 2018
Visit to the Law Society of Hong Kong (the LSHK)
The LSHK is a professional association for solicitors in Hong Kong. It was incorporated in 1907 as a company limited by guarantee and aims to:
- support and protect the character, status and interests of solicitors in Hong Kong;
- promote good standards of practice and maintain ethical practice;
- ensure compliance by solicitors with relevant laws, codes, regulations and practice directions;
- develop and maintain the work of solicitors in all areas of the law, legal practice and procedures;
- ensure the views of solicitors are accurately and purposefully communicated; and
- consider all questions affecting the interests of the profession, and to represent the profession to procure changes of law or practice.
The Law Society of Singapore (LSS) had previously met representatives of the LSHK on 29 November 2016. At the time, the Chairpersons and members of various specialist committees together with the Secretariat had engaged in a productive discussion on various practice issues. The purposes of this recent visit were to network with IP practitioners in Hong Kong with a view to exploring inter-jurisdictional billable IP work and to discuss legal policy, practice and law reform issues.
The welcome remarks were delivered by the Vice-President of the Law Society of Hong Kong, Mr Amirali Nasir. Two informal cluster discussions were then held concurrently – one between the members of the respective IP Practice Committees of both Law Societies and another between the other members of the Singapore delegation and other specialist committees of the LSHK.
During the cluster discussions as well as the networking lunch which the LSHK hosted our delegation to thereafter, there were thoughtful exchanges and insightful sharing of experiences among lawyers from both cities.
We would like to thank the LSHK for its wonderful hospitality and such a fruitful, substantive exchange. We also look forward to hosting the LSHK in the spirit of reciprocity when it next visits sunny island Singapore.
Visit to Klook Travel
Klook, short for “Keep Looking”, is an online concierge for the best deals on unique travel experiences. Klook also allows users to explore itinerary ideas and inspiration via their Klook Travel Blog – an extension of their booking platform, meant to serve as a portal for all other subjects travel-related. It is authored by a team of traveling contributors and local insiders, occasionally a Klook Connoisseur or a Klook Curator, and more often than not, the Klook Editorial Team itself.
During its visit, the Singapore delegation noted that Klook Travel is one of Asia’s largest in-destination travel services booking platforms, which now operates in over 100 destinations worldwide and has scaled up to a team of 300 people with offices in 10 cities since it was founded in 2014, including offices in Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, Singapore and Kuala Lumpur.
During the visit, the officers of Klook Travel had noted that Singapore consistently ranked among the best in the world for its protection of IP rights. They also shared that Klook Travel had a number of IPs registered in Singapore with the advice and guidance of Singapore law practices.
Day Two, 5 December 2018
Visit to iDendron and Technology Transfer Office, The University of Hong Kong (HKU)
iDendron was launched in 2017 with the aim of nurturing entrepreneurial and innovative spirit on campus, incubating the University of Hong Kong’s start-ups, establishing inter-disciplinary cooperation and engaging the community to support human endeavours and societal developments. iDendron originates from the Greek “Dendro”, meaning “tree”. It symbolises the HKU spirit in advancing innovation from knowledge, growing enterprise from innovation, and developing impact from enterprise. iDendron is powered by Technology Transfer Office (the TTO) and is supported by Development & Alumni Affairs Office.
The Singapore delegation visited iDendron and the TTO of the HKU to promote Singapore as the suitable venue for having the inventions of HKU patented with the capable advice of Singapore law practices. Representatives of the TTO briefed the Singapore delegation about HKU’s vision to contribute to society through three main pillars: innovation, internationalisation and inter-disciplinarity. The Singapore delegation was impressed by the TTO’s mission to encourage people to develop more inventions, and to file more patents in the process.
The Singapore delegation briefed representatives of the TTO on the realisation of the ASEAN Economic Community in 2015, which crystallised the fact that ASEAN is the sixth largest market in the world, and second in Asia only to China and Japan. The delegation put across that Singapore had established a good ecosystem and strong patent examination system to generate robust outcomes for patents, and was aiming to be a “lighthouse” for Southeast Asia in its approach to protecting IP rights.
We hope that the visit would put Singapore IP law practices in a better position to work towards a mutually beneficial relationship that will encourage the HKU to consider commercialising its research interests in Singapore.
Networking Lunch with Law Firms that specialise in IP Law and Practice
The Singapore delegation then hosted a networking lunch with law firms, including representatives from Wilkinson & Grist, de Bedin & Lee LLP, Oldham, Li & Nie and SM & Co at Hard Rock Café Hong Kong. Attendees discussed the nuances and legal practices of both Hong Kong and Singapore, as well as those in the region and beyond. Attendees also discussed the economic and legal implications of the Belt and Road Initiative (the BRI) on the practice of lawyers as a whole.
Visit to Hong Kong Applied Science and Technology Research Institute (ASTRI)
Following lunch, the delegation was welcomed by Mr Iftekhar Hasan, Senior Manager of Strategic Communications at ASTRI, with a view to exploring ASTRI’s ideas or inventions that it was prepared to consider having patented in Singapore. ASTRI was founded by the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region in 2000 with the mission of enhancing Hong Kong’s competitiveness in technology-based industries through applied research. ASTRI’s core R & D competence in various areas has been organised under seven Technology Divisions: Communications Technologies, Electronics Components, Mixed Signal Systems IC, Advanced Digital Systems, Intelligent Sensing Technology System, Security and Data Sciences, and Intelligent Software and Systems.
Mr Hasan briefed the delegation that Hong Kong held the record for the highest per capita number of patents in the world. The delegation noted that ASTRI’s areas of focus included:
- Smart city and Next Generation Network;
- Financial Technologies;
- Intelligent Manufacturing focusing on AI and Robotics;
- Healthcare Technologies; and
- Application-specific Integrated Circuits, particularly ASTRI’s contribution to designing chips.
Visit to the Hong Kong Trade Development Council (the HKTDC)
The HKTDC is a statutory organisation committed to demonstrating high standards of corporate governance, both as a statutory body in the public service and as an organisation with a responsibility to show leadership in best practices for Hong Kong’s business community.
Established in 1966, the HKTDC’s mission is to explore opportunities for Hong Kong companies, especially small and medium-sized enterprises, and connect them with business partners around the world. The HKTDC also has many offices overseas to reach out to link up companies on a daily basis.
International companies see Hong Kong as a good test market for new inventions, also due to Hong Kong’s close proximity to mainland China. The purpose of this meeting was to enable the Singapore delegation to understand the HKTDC and its engagement with legal services industry in Hong Kong and in the region, and learn more about Hong Kong’s role in engaging professional services providers in infrastructure and investment projects for the BRI.
The Singapore delegation understood that the professional services industry had contributed significantly to Hong Kong’s gross domestic product over the years. To further the progress of the BRI, the HKTDC prioritised three areas of focus: financial integration, trade and investment and facilities connectivity. It also established a Belt and Road Initiative Committee comprising business advisors to guide it in its goal of consolidating Hong Kong’s position as a commercial and information hub for the BRI by promoting investments in the region. The HKTDC also briefed the Singapore delegation about the Belt and Road Initiative Global Forum, which served as a platform to match like-minded businesses and enable organisations and associations to exchange information.
We were heartened by these developments and look forward to further dialogue and opportunities for collaboration with the HKTDC in the near future.
Days 3 and 4, 6-7 December 2018
Business of IP Asia Forum
Following the meetings set out above, the delegation attended the Business of IP Asia Forum on 6-7 December 2018. The theme for this year’s Forum was “IP & Innovation in the New Socio-technological Landscape”. In particular, our participants found the concurrent breakout sessions informative for the practice of IP law. These included the following topics:
- Conducting Business On-line; Challenges and Opportunities;
- Latest Developments of Protection of 3D Trademarks; and
- Opportunities for Hong Kong’s IP Industry under the BRI.
The Forum also provided opportunities for our participants to network with companies that had set up booths at the Exhibition Area, including the Hong Kong Intellectual Property Agent Limited, IPConnect, Deacons and other service providers.
Visit to the Hong Kong Intellectual Property Department (the HKIPD), Government of the Special Administrative Region of Hong Kong
Before the close of its mission, the Singapore delegation paid a visit to the HKIPD to discuss Hong Kong’s filing systems for IP and to better understand the trade mark prosecution processes.
Established on 2 July 1990 to promote IP and to advise the Secretary of Commerce and Economic Development about IP proposals such as new laws and/or policies, the HKIPD also maintains the register for trademarks and patents in Hong Kong.
To raise public awareness about IP, the HKIPD briefed that it had launched programmes to encourage people to respect one another’s IP rights. Further, fun activities such as interactive dramas were organised for schools to raise awareness of IP for children. The HKIPD also conducted seminars and short-term training courses for the benefit of small and medium enterprises to educate them about the basics of IP.
The Singapore delegation expressed its gratitude to the HKIPD, and looks forward to further interaction in the future.
The mission trip presented an excellent opportunity for the delegation to understand the key attributes and functions of each of the companies, organisations and institutes that we visited. It also provided a platform for the delegation to exchange ideas on business opportunities for the benefit of Singapore IP law practices and other opportunities for collaboration.
The IP Practice Committee and the Singapore delegation would like to extend their sincere thanks to the LSHK, Klook Travel, iDendron and the TTO, the HKU, ASTRI, the HKTDC and the HKIPD for receiving us, and we look forward to further meaningful exchanges in the near future.
The LSS would also like to thank Enterprise Singapore for its support of this mission.