Intellectual Property (IP) laws in Hong Kong cover various legal protections for inventors, artists, designers, and businesses. These laws help protect things like new inventions, artistic creations, unique designs, and brand logos. IP rights are important in Hong Kong’s economy because they encourage new ideas and creations and provide rules for using and protecting these creations in the highly competitive world market.

Knowing about Hong Kong’s IP laws, including patents and trademarks, is important for businesses operating in this area. Our article will explain everything you need to know about these IP laws in Hong Kong.

What is Intellectual Property Law in Hong Kong?

IP law in Hong Kong is defined as the body of laws that regulate the rights of creators over their intellectual creations. This includes legal protections for a wide array of works and inventions, from artistic and literary works to technological innovations and brand identities.

The primary aim of these laws is to provide creators and inventors with exclusive rights to their creations, thereby encouraging innovation and creativity while ensuring fair competition.

The IP legal structure in Hong Kong is primarily governed by three key ordinances, each tailored to a specific type of intellectual property:

  • Copyright Ordinance: protects original artistic, literary, dramatic, and musical works, among others. It ensures creators have exclusive rights to their creations, such as the right to reproduce, distribute, and perform their works.
  • Patent Ordinance: focuses on the protection of inventions. It grants inventors exclusive rights to their new and innovative ideas, offering legal recourse against unauthorized use of their patented inventions.
  • Trademarks Ordinance: safeguards symbols, logos, and other distinctive signs used by businesses to distinguish their goods and services from others. It provides businesses with the exclusive right to use their registered trademarks and protects against misuse by others.

Two main departments are responsible for the enforcement and administration of IP laws in Hong Kong:

  • Intellectual Property Department (IPD): The IPD is the primary government authority responsible for administering intellectual property rights in Hong Kong. Its responsibilities include the registration of patents, trademarks, and designs, as well as advising the government on IP policy and promoting IP awareness and education among the public.
  • Customs & Excise Department: This department plays a vital role in enforcing IP laws, particularly at the border level. It is responsible for combating the import and export of counterfeit and pirated goods, thus safeguarding the interests of IP rights holders.

Key Ordinances of Hong Kong Intellectual Property Law

In Hong Kong, Intellectual Property (IP) law is primarily governed by three core ordinances: the Copyright Ordinance, Trademark Ordinance, and Patent Ordinance. Each of these ordinances provides a distinct form of protection for different types of intellectual creations and innovations. Below is a detailed explanation of each ordinance.

The Copyright Ordinance in Hong Kong establishes a legal framework for the protection of original works. This ordinance is designed to ensure that creators have exclusive rights over their creations, providing them with recognition and financial benefits.

Protected works

The ordinance covers a broad range of original works, including but not limited to music compositions, artwork, films, written materials like books and plays, software, and architectural designs. These works must be original and exhibit a certain degree of creativity to be eligible for protection.

Rights of owners

  • The owner of the copyright enjoys exclusive rights, which include:
  • The right to reproduce the work in various forms.
  • The right to distribute, perform, or display the work publicly.
  • The right to create derivative works based on the original.
  • The authority to license others to use the work under specified conditions.
  • The ability to take legal action against unauthorized use, which includes infringements like unauthorized copying or distribution.

Trademark Ordinance

The Trademark Ordinance in Hong Kong protects symbols, names, sounds, and other signs that distinguish the goods and services of one entity from those of others. This ordinance helps businesses to safeguard their brand identity and reputation.

Protected works

It covers trademarks that are distinctive and not misleading or descriptive of the goods or services themselves. These can include logos, brand names, slogans, and sometimes unique packaging.

Rights of owners

The rights conferred by trademark registration include:

  • Exclusive use of the trademark about the goods or services it is registered for.
  • Legal protection against infringement, which includes unauthorized use of a similar or identical mark that could confuse consumers.
  • The power to license the trademark to others for commercial use.
  • The ability to enforce rights through legal proceedings against infringement and counterfeit activities.

Patent Ordinance

The Patent Ordinance protects inventions. This ordinance ensures that inventors can commercially exploit their inventions while preventing others from using their inventions without consent.

Protected works

Inventions eligible for patent protection must be new, involve an inventive step, and be capable of industrial application. This includes products or processes that provide a new technical solution or improve existing solutions.

Rights of owners

Patent holders are granted several exclusive rights, such as:

  • The right to prevent others from making, using, selling, or importing the patented invention without permission.
  • The ability to license the patent to others or transfer patent rights.
  • Legal authority to take action against infringement, which includes manufacturing or selling the invention without consent.

Registration of Intellectual Property Rights in Hong Kong

The process of registering intellectual property (IP) rights in Hong Kong is a crucial step for creators and businesses seeking to safeguard their innovations and creative works. Here, IP rights registration is primarily based on a first-to-file system, and the procedures vary depending on the type of IP being protected.

First-to-file basis

In Hong Kong, the system for registering IP rights operates on a first-to-file basis. This means that the first person to file an application for a particular IP right with the Intellectual Property Department (IPD) is generally recognized as the rightful owner of that right. This system emphasizes the importance of timely registration.

The first-to-file principle underscores the need for inventors and creators to register their IPs as soon as possible to avoid disputes over ownership. It is particularly crucial in cases where similar inventions or trademarks may be developed independently by different parties.

Registration process

While copyrights will be automatically assigned to your IP, patents and trademarks require formal registration with the IPD. The general registration process typically involves the following steps:

Step 1: Application preparation

Applicants must prepare an application form that includes all necessary documentation, proof of the IP’s originality, and, where applicable, samples of the work or a detailed description of the invention or trademark.

Step 2: Submission of application

The completed application form, along with all supporting documents, must be submitted to the IPD. The submission can often be done online or through traditional paper-based methods.

Step 3: Payment of fees

Upon submission, applicants are required to pay the prescribed fees. These fees vary depending on the type of IP right being registered and the complexity of the application.

Step 4: Review and approval

After submission, the IPD reviews the application to ensure compliance with legal requirements and to confirm that no similar IP rights are already registered.

This process may involve a formal examination, especially in the case of patents. If the application meets all criteria, the IPD will approve the registration.

Step 5: Issuance of certificate

Once the application is approved, the IPD issues a certificate of registration, officially granting the applicant the IP rights.

How to maintain compliance with Intellectual Property Law in Hong Kong

Maintaining compliance with Intellectual Property (IP) law in Hong Kong is crucial for individuals and businesses that have obtained IP rights. After securing these rights through registration, several ongoing responsibilities must be met to ensure the continued protection and legal standing of the IP. Here’s a comprehensive look at what needs to be done:

Pay an annual fee to maintain ownership

To keep IP rights active, particularly for patents and trademarks, owners are required to pay annual fees. These fees are vital for the maintenance of the rights and must be paid to the Intellectual Property Department (IPD) in Hong Kong.

Failure to pay these fees can result in the lapse or cancellation of the IP rights, leaving the intellectual property unprotected and potentially open to use by others without any legal repercussions. Timely payment of these fees ensures continuous protection under Hong Kong law.

Monitor and detect infringement

Active monitoring of the market and relevant sectors is essential to detect any possible infringement of IP rights. This involves keeping an eye out for unauthorized use of your intellectual property, such as counterfeit products, unlicensed reproductions, or misuse of patented technology.

If infringement is detected, the IP owner should take appropriate legal action, which may include sending cease and desist letters, negotiating settlements, or pursuing legal proceedings. Vigilant monitoring serves as a deterrent against potential infringers and ensures that any infringement is dealt with swiftly and effectively.

Stay updated with IP law and regulation

IP laws and regulations can evolve, so IP owners must stay informed about any changes. This includes updates in legislation, changes in application and renewal procedures, or shifts in enforcement policies.

Staying informed helps in ensuring that one’s approach to IP management remains compliant with current laws. It also aids in making informed decisions about the protection and utilization of the IP, and in understanding the scope and limitations of one’s rights under the law.

Transfer IP rights with license and assignment

IP rights can be a valuable asset, and owners may choose to transfer these rights through licensing or assignment. Licensing allows others to use the IP under certain conditions without transferring ownership, whereas assignment involves the transfer of ownership rights to another party.

Proper legal documentation and adherence to the necessary procedures are vital when transferring IP rights. This ensures that the transfer is legally binding and that the rights and obligations of all parties involved are clearly defined and compliant with Hong Kong IP law.


In conclusion, if you are planning to do business in Hong Kong, understanding the IP laws and related issues is beneficial not only to your business but also to create a foundation for it to thrive and succeed in the future.

If you have any questions about setting up a business in Hong Kong, feel free to contact us at

Disclaimer: While BBCIncorp strives to make the information on this website as timely and accurate as possible, the information itself is for reference purposes only. You should not substitute the information provided in this article for competent legal advice. Feel free to contact BBCIncorp’s customer services for advice on your specific cases.

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