12 September 2006Mr Alan Wong Chi-kong, JP Commissioner for Transport,Transport Department41/F, Immigration Tower7 Gloucester Road,Wan Chai, Hong KongDear Mr Wong,Personalised Vehicle Registration MarksOn behalf of the Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce Legal Committee, I am writing to raise with you our concerns over possible abuse of copyright, trademark, service mark, brands and other corporate identification through personalised vehicle registration marks (PVRMs).Whilst the Chamber has no objection to PVRMs, we are concerned by the way it is reported, i.e. that car owners are now at liberty to apply for marks like "TVB", "PCCW" etc as their individual license numbers and the fact that some over 100 names including “PCCW” “HKU” “Porsche” etc are going to be auctioned later this month. Upon review of the Revenue (Personalized Vehicle Registration Marks) Ordinance, it appears that there are no express restrictions against the use of such abbreviations as personalized licence numbers by any individual. This does not appear to sit well with the Government's statements on the protection of intellectual property rights in Hong Kong (with just one example being the Government's Intellectual Property Department website): “The Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR) attaches great weight to the contribution that the creation of intellectual property makes to the economy. We have been involved in an on-going effort to ensure that Hong Kong, China people and overseas investors in Hong Kong, China can be assured of intellectual property protection as good as and even better than in any other economy in the world.”Understandably, this has caused great concern to some of our members, particularly those with well known trade or service marks, registered or otherwise. We note from the earlier Report of the Bills Committee that the Administration has received legal advice to the effect that there should be no copyright or trademark infringement arising from the Scheme, but it remains to be seen if this advice can sustain legal challenge or more specifically whether international or local business organizations with their rights so infringed or their legal advisers will accept this position and who may choose to file law suits to enforce their rights. As you can imagine, chaos might follow which may bring unwelcome negative attention to the Scheme.Whether or not a clear legal right or cause of action by an aggrieved proprietor lies to restrain or ban the use of its hard won commercial pre-eminence in regard to a particular badge of trade, it seems very clear to the Chamber and to our members that, with all the effort made by the Administration to demonstrate to the international community that Hong Kong SAR respects intellectual property rights, the ramifications under the Scheme could be very damaging for major international companies such as Sony, IBM, AIG, Kodak, BMW, Disney, GAF, BBC, Citicorp or Coca-Cola. Further, there are both local and Mainland examples where misuse could cause considerable damage, such as my own firm's HSBC, the aforementioned PCCW, BOC, TVB, ATV, Hang Lung, Dao Heng, CX, Hotung, OOCL, Zung Fu, CAAC, or indeed HKGCC. There is a potential danger to companies that their registered marks/brands may be moving around Hong Kong on vehicles belonging to unrelated parties with, frankly, SAR Government promotion and support. This would especially be the case if the unrelated parties' vehicles bearing such registered marks/brands were affixed to vehicles with commercial use.We assume that the Administration must have considered this in the process generating the final draft manifestation of the Scheme and that the Commissioner for Transport has thereby been given appropriate final and absolute discretion to refuse any mark likely to come within the above problem. It would be beneficial for the Chamber and its members to know if it is the intention or policy of the Commissioner to disallow marks or brands (examples of which are set out above) to be registered or purchased for use by unrelated third parties or at all.Sincerely,Kenneth NgChairman, Legal CommitteeHong Kong General Chamber of Commerce
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