Helen Sloan

The first ever Business of IP Asia Forum will take place tomorrow in Hong Kong. Organised by the Hong Kong Trade Development Council and the Hong Kong Design Centre, the event consists of a busy day of sessions, panel discussions and workshops aimed at businesses and professionals with an interest in IP. The keynote speech will be provided by Dr Mao Jinsheng, director of the Intellectual Property Development and Research Centre at China’s State IP Office; other speakers and panellists include representatives from Microsoft and Intellectual Ventures, as well as a number of government officials from around the region. The forum will focus on the trade aspects of intellectual property, and attendees can expect to learn more about the latest trends, and hear advice on portfolio management, valuation, licensing and more in the region.

Hong Kong’s government is keen to promote IP rights and practice, and this event is part of a drive to establish the Special Administrative Region as the IP hub for Asia. Hong Kong has got some decent credentials in this regard: it is already a financial and transport hub, is a cosmopolitan city that appeals to international visitors, and is home to many IP professionals whose work focuses mainly on China. Yet Hong Kong’s IP community is fairly compact, and the SAR itself is not a major player in terms of innovation or manufacturing. And while the introduction of substantive examination of patent applications is part of a wider consultation process on reform currently being undertaken, can a jurisdiction that does not currently do this really lead the way in IP matters?

Other cities with a reasonable claim to the crown include Singapore, home of the groundbreaking IP Academy, as well as the Chinese powerhouses of Beijing, Shanghai and also perhaps Shenzhen. Located just over the border from Hong Kong, Shenzhen is set next year to become home to Asia’s first equity index on technology patents, as reported in the South China Morning Post. Ocean Tomo, which already runs the Chicago-based OT300 Patent Index, is working with the Shenzhen city government on the index. The city was the first of China’s Special Economic Zones, is the financial centre of southern mainland China, and is home to many of the PRC’s biggest, tech-based companies including Huawei, ZTE and Tencent, as well as any number of hungry start-ups. Anyone gambling on where China’s future innovators are likely to emerge from would be playing pretty safe with a punt on Shenzhen.

But a city that barely existed 30 years ago may not be an attractive enough proposition for the regional and international IP community. Perhaps then Hong Kong and Shenzhen could share the honours of being Asia’s IP hub: individually each city has its drawbacks, but together they offer many benefits and services to attract IP professionals, investors and businesses from across the globe. There is surely an opportunity here to use a bit of imagination in order to create one big IP hub that would be a match for almost anywhere else in the world.