Hong Kong’s public briefing about its plans to
be a hub for IP deals, advocates such as Secretary of Commerce
Gregory So and IP Department director Peter Cheung touted the
benefits of IP marketplaces and the importance of intellectual
property to economic competitiveness. However, though a number
of government and private entities around the world are looking
to build such marketplaces, some rights holders are more
sceptical as to what benefits they will bring to their
"There’s a lot of talk of IP trading, but
I’m not sure what this will actually mean," said a
senior IP counsel from an international lifestyle brand. "IP
has been sold and licensed for years, so it’s
unclear how Hong Kong’s plan to be an IP
marketplace will change things."
From the perspective of larger companies with expertise and
resources, the exchanges envisioned by governments such as Hong
Kong and Singapore may not provide many benefits.
"My company has bought a number of brands in recent years,
and you have to do your due diligence each time and work out
all the details in the deal," the IP counsel explained. "If
we’re buying a trade mark, we’re
obviously buying it for the goodwill that it has built up;
I’m not sure companies need a marketplace that
will help them find and buy an unknown trade mark that
doesn’t have any associated goodwill."
Of course, advocates argue that the marketplaces can help in
a number of ways, such as reducing transaction costs by
providing matchmaking for rights holders and service providers.
For example, in Germany, the Fraunhofer
MOEZ Institute’s IP Industry
Base (IPIB) provides a database of service providers. The
IPIB allows users to use IPC
codes to find legal professionals that have experience with a
specific type of patent. Similarly, both Hong Kong and
Singapore’s plans to be Asia's IP hub stress the
need to build up the professional infrastructure. Singapore has
been working on this for a number of years now since the
establishment of its IP Academy back in 2002.
Proponents of IP marketplaces also say that they also
provide a valuable service in helping to bring exposure to IP
generated by SMEs and helping small inventors find licensors or
buyers. The logic makes sense for patents where even large
companies are looking for patents to strengthen their
portfolios. However, this is often extended to the buying and
selling of trade marks, where it is a bit uncertain. While
companies commonly buy uncommercialised technology for various
purposes, there does not appear to be much value for companies
in searching for and buying unused trade marks.
What do you think? What does an IP exchange need to attract
users? Should exchanges focus on providing easy access to
support services? Or should they take a completely different
form, such as
IPXI’s financial exchange model?