John Larrysson Column: Book Review: Intellectual Property in Hong Kong

Intellectual Property in Hong Kong is the standard reference book for explaining intellectual property laws in Hong Kong. A minimal understanding of copyright law is of great importance to writers. The trouble with many online resources is that they generally refer to American law and not Hong Kong law.

This book is not for the casual reader. Anyone with a good tertiary-level command of the English language can read it. Those of us who are not law students should be prepared to read slowly and carefully.

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Hong Kong has intellectual property laws as strong as or stronger than any Western country. This is partially because of British colonialism, but also out of necessity because of Hong Kong's niche as a global commercial centre.

While copyright law is the main issue writers will be interested in, this book also covers other areas. These areas include: common law trademarks, the action for passing off (enforcing unregistered trademarks), registered trademarks, registered designs, patents and trade secrets. An area of intellectual property law conspicuous by its light treatment in this book is the subject of the public domain. Hong Kong laws and the laws of many other countries treat public domain as merely the lack of copyright.

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This book has an extensive table of contents and index, including a table of cases and a table of statutes. These sections allow the book to be used relatively quickly as a reference.

While this book is not a replacement for reading the actual Hong Kong laws, it does explain how the law is used and what it means. The actual Hong Kong ordinances are freely available online (at

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Both of the authors are experts in the field. Hong Kong University Professor Alice Lee is the foremost expert in Hong Kong intellectual property law. Her academic work also includes legal bilingualism. She provides legal advice for Creative Commons Hong Kong and does a lot of other public legal service. Chinese University professor Michael Pendleton is a qualified lawyer in many countries and a leading academic authority on both Chinese and Australian intellectual property law.

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I recommend this book for school principals, panel heads, editors and anyone who needs to understand Hong Kong intellectual property law for their job. School principals and panel heads should read: The introduction, the chapter on copyright and the first few pages of the chapters on common law trademarks and registered trademarks. Particular attention should be paid to the sections: exceptions to infringement (pages 158 to 165), fair dealing (pages 158 to 161), the educational and library exceptions (pages 161 to 165). Of course all Hong Kong law students should read it. Intellectual Property in Hong Kong is a very useful book for separating legal facts from people's guesses and myths.

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by John Larrysson

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A native English speaker who has been teaching practical English in Hong Kong for more than a decade.