Hong Kong - Country Commercial Guide
Protecting Intellectual Property-Hong Kong & Macau
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IPR Climate in Hong Kong and Macau

The best protection for an American individual or entity is to ensure that its products are available in the local market in authentic form.  Local agents, dealers and partners have a strong incentive to stop any piracy or counterfeiting and, with good local connections, have a better chance of making that happen than an American rights holder that is not actively participating in the market.  In Hong Kong, the chief law enforcement agency for IPR is the Hong Kong Customs and Excise Department, which works closely with affected industries and conducts vigorous anti-piracy and anti-counterfeiting operations.  Similarly, the Macau Customs Service is the law enforcement agency for IP in that enclave. However, protecting copyrights or trademarks takes vigilance and advanced preparation.  For more information, please see the State Department’s 2023 Investment Climate Statements for Hong Kong:  Hong Kong - United States Department of State, and for Macau:  Macau - United States Department of State.

Protecting Your Intellectual Property

Several general principles are important for effective management of intellectual property (“IP”) rights in both Hong Kong and Macau.  First, it is important to have an overall strategy to protect your IP.  Second, IP may be protected differently in Hong Kong and Macau than in the United States.  Third, as IP rights are territorial, they must be registered and enforced in Hong Kong and Macau under local laws.  There is no such thing as an “international copyright” or a “worldwide patent.”  For example, a U.S. trademark registration or a patent grant will not provide protection in Hong Kong and Macau.  Protection against unauthorized use in a particular country depends on the national laws of that jurisdiction.  However, most countries do offer some form of copyright protection to foreign works in accordance with international agreements.

The granting of a patent generally is based on a first-to-file basis, or first-to-invent, depending on the country.  Similarly, registering trademarks is based on a first-to-file basis, as in China, while first-to-use is the standard in the United States.  It is important to obtain patent and trademark protection before introducing your products or services to the Hong Kong and Macau market.  Entities must understand that intellectual property is a private right, and that the U.S. Government cannot enforce rights for private individuals or businesses in Hong Kong, Macau, or anywhere else.  Rights holders themselves are responsible for registering, protecting, and enforcing their rights, as well as retaining their own counsel and advisors.  Companies may wish to seek advice from local attorneys or IP consultants who are experts in Hong Kong and Macau law.  A list of legal services providers in Hong and Macau is available on the U.S. Consulate General Hong Kong & Macau website.

While the U.S. Government stands ready to assist, there is little we can do if the rights holders have not taken these fundamental steps necessary to securing and enforcing their IP in a timely fashion.  Imperfect as another country’s remedies may be for IP infringement, a rights holder often cannot take advantage of the IP laws extant unless the IP has been registered in that jurisdiction.  Moreover, in many countries, rights holders who delay enforcing their rights on a mistaken belief that the U.S. Government can provide a political resolution to a legal problem may find that their rights have been eroded or abrogated due to legal doctrines such as statutes of limitations, laches, estoppel, or unreasonable delay in prosecuting a lawsuit.  In no instance should U.S. Government suggestions be seen as a substitute for the responsibility of a rights holder to promptly pursue its case.

Always conduct due diligence on potential partners.  A good partner is an important ally in protecting IP rights.  Consider carefully whether to permit your partner to register your IP rights on your behalf.  Doing so may create a risk that your partner will list itself as the IP owner, then fail to transfer the rights, should the partnership end.  Keep an eye on your cost structure and reduce the margins (and the incentives) of would-be bad actors.  Projects and sales in Hong Kong and Macau require constant attention.  Beware of insider threats, that is, employees who may misappropriate IP for their own gain.  Work with legal counsel familiar with Hong Kong and Macau laws to create a solid contract that includes non-compete clauses and confidentiality/non-disclosure provisions.  Check on your partner by periodically visiting unannounced.

Small- and medium-sized enterprises should utilize trade associations and organizations to protect IP and stop counterfeiting.  These associations help magnify the impact of industry, whether small or large, and promote critical issues, such as IP protection.  Except as noted, many organizations are based in the United States and track IP issues in Hong Kong and Macau, including the following:

IP Resources

Abundant information on protecting IP is freely available to U.S. rights holders.  Some excellent resources for companies regarding intellectual property include the following:

  • For information about patent, trademark, or copyright issues — including enforcement issues in the U.S. and other countries — call the STOP! Hotline: 1-866-999-HALT or visit STOPfakes.gov .
  • For more information about registering trademarks and granting patents (both in the U.S. as well as in foreign countries), contact the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) at: 1-800-786-9199, or visit USPTO.
  • For more information about obtaining copyright protection in the United States, contact the U.S. Copyright Office at: 1-202-707-3000, or visit Copyright.gov.

For additional information on the protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights, visit the U.S.  Investment Climate Statement website.

The U.S. Department of Commerce has IP Attachés in key markets around the world.  You can access the list of the IP attachés and their detailed contact information at USPTO.  Below is a list of the IP Attachés based in China:

Beijing, China

Michael Mangelson



Guangzhou, China

Conrad Wong



Shanghai, China

Juli Schwartz