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, although 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
"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 be as useful.
"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 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 visions 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 by 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 rights they can use to
strengthen their portfolios. However, the mechanism is often
extended to the buying and selling of trade marks, where it is
more uncertain. While companies buy uncommercialised technology
for a range of purposes, there is some doubt as to whether many
companies are searching for and buying unused trade marks.
Despite the doubts, there is considerable interest
from governments in IP marketplaces and ways to make it
easier to trade IP assets. What value does an exchange need to
bring 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? Let us know
what you think.