On 1 July 2017, the National Development and Reform Commission of China, the People's Government of Guangdong Province, the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and the Government of the Macao Special Administrative Region signed the Framework Agreement on Deepening Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Cooperation in the Development of the Greater Bay Area ("the Agreement"). And immediately after the signing of the Agreement, the development of the Greater Bay Area ("GBA") was officially launched.
The GBA comprises of the two Special Administrative Regions of Hong Kong and Macao and nine municipalities in Guangdong province. This region covers an area around 56,000 sq.km. In the year 2019, the total population of this region is 72 million with a total GDP of US$1.7 trillion and per capital GDP of US$23,371.
The GBA project is one of the key strategic initiatives adopted by the Chinese government with a view to linking and reinforcing the roles of Hong Kong, Macao and the nine municipalities in Guangdong, and transforming this region to be a first class bay area and world-class city cluster ideally for living, working and travelling.
Whilst there are massive potential developments in the GBA, how to protect IP rights in one country with three systems is one of the key factors that every IP right holder should take into account before launching any business plans there. There are indeed three separate legal systems, and thus separate legal advice from IP lawyers in China, Hong Kong and Macao may be required.
Ideally, a unified system for IP protection in the GBA can help facilitate all walks of business involving IP rights. Nonetheless, it is almost unrealistic to expect such a unified IP system in GBA to happen soon due to the different laws, regulations and even polices governing the IP rights in China, Hong Kong and Macao.
Hence, the realistic approach that one can adopt is to obtain a valid IP right in each of the jurisdictions. Understandably, the odds to obtain the same patent and design rights across these three jurisdictions are relatively high. There is however no guarantee that one can obtain the same registered trade mark rights in the three jurisdictions at once. For this reason, trade mark owners are advised to register their marks in China, Hong Kong and Macao separately well before they launch their business plans in GBA.
With the implementation of the International Registration via the Madrid system in or about mid 2022 in Hong Kong, trade mark owners may follow this route to obtain one single registration in China, Hong Kong and other countries having joined the Madrid Protocol. Macao is however not one of them and there is no indication that Macao will implement the International Registration system in the near future.
Recent rapid growth in e-commerce and advances in logistic in this decade have broadened markets and increased the speed of transfer of technology across the borders. IP owners are advised to pay extra attention to their IP rights in GBA where three legal systems are involved.