3 Tips for Australian Businesses Searching for Hong Kong Trade Marks
With a unique ‘one country, two systems’ policy that distinguishes it from mainland China, Hong Kong is a unique market for Australian businesses. Considered an international financial hub and an excellent base for Australian businesses entering the Asian market, many Australian businesses are already taking advantage of the Australia-Hong Kong free trade agreement. It is important that before you trade with Hong Kong, you ensure you are not at risk of infringing on any intellectual property (IP) in Hong Kong. This article will take you through three tips for Australian businesses searching for Hong Kong trade marks.
1. Understand Hong Kong’s Trade Mark System
Before searching for Hong Kong trade marks, it is beneficial to understand Hong Kong’s trade mark system. Hong Kong’s trade mark system is similar to Australia in some ways. For example, trade marks can be cancelled for non-use if they have not been used for three years. Hong Kong’s trade mark registration period is also for 10 years, and you can renew trade marks in Hong Kong indefinitely provided you follow the correct measures.
However, a key difference is that Hong Kong is not part of the Madrid system, which means it is impossible to file for a Hong Kong trade mark using this method. Instead, you will be required to make a trade mark application directly to Hong Kong’s IP office. While this may be inconvenient, Hong Kong does allow Australian trade marks to claim priority. This means if you file for a Hong Kong trade mark within six months of filing your Australian trade mark, your trade mark will have priority.
2. Use Hong Kong’s Search Tool
In Hong Kong, the Intellectual Property Department of the Government of the Hong Kong SAR is responsible for all trade mark registrations. You can find a trade mark search tool to conduct a thorough trade mark search on their website. This search tool allows you to search for trade marks in several ways, including searching by:
- class number;
- filing date;
- applicant/owner name;
- description; or
- trade mark status.
It is also possible to pay for a Hong Kong trade mark search by paying HKD 200 (about AUD 35). While not an essential step, it may provide further peace of mind to know that your trade mark is available in Hong Kong.
3. Consider Language
Hong Kong uses both English and Chinese as its official languages. Specifically, Cantonese is the predominant first language of Hong Kong, with the majority of the population descending from the Canton province of mainland China. Therefore, when searching for Hong Kong trade marks with a word element, you should take care to consider all possible translations and transliterations.
It is also important to consider the language of proceedings when applying for a trade mark in Hong Kong. You will be able to make your trade mark application in either Chinese or English. The language that you choose will then be the designated language of proceedings for everything relating to your trade mark application. For example, if you apply for your trade mark in English, every document you file afterwards will need to be in English. In addition, any opposition notices you receive must also be in English.
Your IP is the most important part of your business. If you plan on trading in Hong Kong, it is important that you:
- understand Hong Kong’s trade mark system;
- check the availability of your trade mark in Hong Kong; and
- consider language in Hong Kong.
Frequently Asked Questions
If you plan on trading in Hong Kong Kong, having a trade mark registered is an excellent way to protect your brand. A Hong Kong trade mark will give you exclusive use to your trade mark in Hong Kong, preventing others from copying your brand and profiting from it. The trade mark registration process will also ensure that you do not infringe on someone else’s trade mark.
To register your trade mark in Hong Kong, you will need to apply directly to Hong Kong’s IP office. It is important to note that a Hong Kong trade mark will only protect you in Hong Kong. If you want protection in Macau or mainland China, you will have to apply separately.