Some important things you need to know when launching a business in Hong Kong.
Innovation Hong Kong knows that there are many aspects to open a business in Hong Kong so we asked Kitty Lau from Kernel Business Services Limited [Hong Kong], who offers corporate services and advisory, to provide us with the following information which we hope is useful.
Before you proceed with the registration of your business, you should ensure that you have a clear picture about the following:
Register your company name
If you intend to set up a limited liability company, you will need to submit your application to both the Companies Registry (CR) and Business Registration Office [BRO]. If you intend to set up an unlimited liability company such as sole proprietorship or partnership, then you are only required to submit your application to the Business Registration Office [BRO] within one month following commencement of business.
A company name is an official name of the company. According to the Companies Ordinance, a Hong Kong limited liability company name -unless with exemption- must always end with the term “LIMITED” to indicate its limited liability status. If you intended to register a limited liability company, you can first conduct a company name search at the CR online platform at www.icris.cr.gov.hk.
You will be unable to register if your proposed company name is considered as too alike to that of an existing name on the Registrar or fails to comply with the requirements as specified in the “Guideline on Registration of Company Names for Hong Kong Companies.” www.cr.gov.hk/en/companies_ordinance/docs/Guide_RegCompName-e.pdf)
If registration is accepted, the Certificate of Incorporation will be issued in around 5 working days if you have lodged your application in paper form or, within a couple of hours if you have lodged your application online via the Companies Registry online platform. The business registration certificate will be issued simultaneously.
If you do not plan to set up a limited liability company, then you should directly approach the Business Registration Office under the Inland Revenue Department to apply for a Business Registration Certificate within one month from the date of your business commencing to register your company either as 1.a sole proprietorship or 2.partnership. You will usually receive the business registration certificate on the same day if you submit the application in person.
A limited company or an unlimited company can register a business name to operate its business. The name may either be in Chinese, English, or both. A company may have more than one business name on its business registration certificate but each business registration certificate can only contain one business name, therefore if a company has a number of business names, it must apply for a branch business registration for the sake of registering each business name respectively.
Unlike a limited company name where the CR will reject the registration of similar names, the BRO will not inspect the application of business name shown on the business registration certificate but merely provide the registration service as it is not possible to conduct a business name search with the business registration office. It could be possible that companies may have identical business names.
It is also possible for some banks to accept account opening under the company’s business name.
The registration of the company name in the Companies Registry or the registration of the business name in the Business Registration Office does not mean that the company or business operator has the right to use the name as a trademark. Therefore, even if the company name or business name has been registered with the Companies Registry or the Business Registration Office, the trademark must still be registered with the Trademark Registry. Only the owner of a registered trademark can enjoy the exclusive rights of trademarks for the goods or services registered by the trademark and being protected by the Trademark Ordinance.
The Trade Mark Registry under the Intellectual Property Department [IPD] is responsible for trademark registrations. Your business trademark is a sign to help distinguish your goods and/or services from the others on the market. Once the trademark has been registered, the trademark owner will have an exclusive right to use the trademark in relation to the goods and services for which the mark is registered and may take legal action against those who infringe upon their intellectual property right.
Before submitting a trademark application, you should conduct a preliminary search at the Trade Mark Registry to find out whether there are any existing trademarks that are identical or similar to the one you intended to register. The search can be done via the Trade Mark Registry free online platform at www.esearch.ipd.gov.hk. After you have lodged your trademark application and met all registration requirements, then the Trade Mark Registry will accept your application and publish your intended trademark in the Hong Kong Intellectual Property Journal for three-months open to the public for any possible opposition. If the Trademark Registry does not receive any objection towards the application during the three-months opposition period, then they will issue a certificate of registration that is valid for 10 years and renewable thereafter. The entire processing time for a trademark application will usually take around six months from the date when IPD accept your application for registration.
When considering registering your trademark, you should note that the trademark registration system of Hong Kong provides regional protection for registered trademarks only. If you want your trademark to be protected in other parts of the world as well, you need to register in that relevant country respectively.
The Hong Kong Intellectual Property Department together with the Law Society of Hong Kong provides a free 30 minute face-to-face IP consultation service for Hong Kong SMEs covering the scope of IP registration, IP management, IP licensing and IP due diligence. The service can be applied for online at: https://www.ip.gov.hk/en/free-ip-consultation-service-highlights.html
Finally, it is very important to register your business domain name. Although a domain name is not an IP itself, it is an important part of your business as it has a close connection with your company’s branding strategy.
When considering your business name, you may want to consider including your company name, business name or trademark in the domain name. For example, a company name is XYZ Limited and your business name is X, therefore when you register your domain name,register it as XY.com which is aligned to the company name and business name which makes it easier for your clients to remember the company’s website.
Depending on your industry and how important the domain name is for your business, if you are operating in Hong Kong, you may also consider registering domain names under .com.hk and .hk to ensure you have more protection.There are an increasing number of online scams and fraudulent emails sent from similar domain names these days.
In conclusion, a company’s brand or goodwill is usually a combination of its company name, business name, trademark, domain name as well as the perception of their products or services, therefore careful consideration should be taken when you are planning to set up your business to ensure you have the maximum protection and at the same time won’t infringe on other’s intellectual property rights.
If you would like to connect with Kernel Business Services Limited please contact Innovation Hong Kong at email@example.com and we will put you in touch.