Legal Environment

flag Hong Kong SAR, China Hong Kong SAR, China: Legal Environment

In this page: Business Contract | Intellectual Property | Legal Framework of Business | International Dispute Resolution


Business Contract

General Observation
It is necessary to establish a contract when an agreement is reached, whichever it is. Hong Kong companies use the services of lawyers very extensively so that the document is made out properly.
Law Applicable to the Contract
Contract Code
Advisable Incoterms
It is preferable to choose FOB incoterms.
Language of Domestic Contract
English, Mandarin and Cantonese. It is common practice to have contracts in English + Cantonese.
Other Laws Which Can Be Used in Domestic Contracts
English Law

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Intellectual Property

National Organisations
Intellectual Property Department for patents and trademarks
Regional Organisations
Consult the list of the Intellectual Property Department
International Membership
Member of the WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organization)
Signatory to the Paris Convention For the Protection of Intellectual Property
Membership to the TRIPS agreement - Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS)

National Regulation and International Agreements

Type of property and law Validity International Agreements Signed
Patent Ordinance 1997
20 years
Trade Marks Ordinance
7 years, renewable for 14 years
Registered Designs Ordinance, chapter 522 of the laws of Hong Kong
5 years, renewable 4 times, that is for a maximum of 25 years.  
Copyright Ordinance 27 June 1997, chapter 528 of the Laws of Hong Kong
50 years WIPO Copyright Treaty

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Legal Framework of Business

Equity of Judgments

Equal Treatment of Nationals and Foreigners
The Language of Justice
English, Cantonese, or both the languages at the same time.
Recourse to an Interpreter
Legal Similarities
Hong Kong's judicial system continues to be based on the English Common Law and the Rules of Natural Justice of Great Britain. In order to maintain autonomy in its judicial system, HK-SAR shows its attachment to the primacy of the "rule of law" as the fundamental law. The judicial system works independently of the system of mainland China.

The Different Legal Codes

Constitution of the State, individual rights, and right of occupation Basic law (considered as the constitution)
Criminal cases and criminal procedures Criminal Law of the People's Republic of China
Contract Law, right of occupation, and civil procedure code Civil Procedure Code
Trade agents' rights, managers' rights, etc. Commercial Code
Checking National Laws Online
Basic Law full text
Other Useful Resources
Legislative Council

The Jurisdictions

The Court of Final Appeal The highest appellate authority in HK to safeguard the principle of "sovereignty of law" ("rule of law")
The High Court which includes the Court of Appeal and the Trial Court It handles criminal and civil cases.
The District Court It handles criminal and civil trial cases.
The Coroner's Court It deals with investigations on the causes and circumstances of certain deaths.
The Juvenile Court Deals with cases of charges brought against juveniles except for homicides.
Lands Tribunal, Labour Tribunal, Small Claims Tribunal and the Obscene Articles Tribunal. Tribunals which have a jurisdiction to judge disputes pertaining to specific regions or defined precincts (districts).
Magistrates Court Criminal cases.

Court Officials

Hong Kong lawyers can be barristers or attorneys but cannot combine both the functions. The term Barrister (practicing barrister) designates a lawyer whose main function is to represents parties in a Court. Attorneys (legal advisor) represent and advise their clients.

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International Dispute Resolution

The HKIAC assists companies in settling their disputes independently, mainly in Asia.
Arbitration Law
For businesses connected with Hong Kong, arbitration follows the Hong Kong Arbitration Ordinance. Despite annexation to China, there is a guarantee for follow up till the middle of this century (2048).

In 2010, the Legislative Council passed a new Arbitration Ordinance that represents a major reform of arbitration law in Hong Kong, abolishing the previous distinction between domestic and international arbitration and adopting a unitary regime based on the UNCITRAL Model Law. The government intends to use the new arbitration law to help promote Hong Kong as a regional center for dispute resolution.
Conformity to International Commercial Arbitration Rules
Party to the New York Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards.
Party to the Geneva Protocol on Arbitration Clauses.
Party to the Geneva Convention of the Execution of Foreign Arbitral Awards.
Appointment of Arbitrators
In case where the parties cannot reach an agreement on the choice of the arbitrator, it is HKIAC which will appoint him. In case of international trade, HKIAC will also decide if there should be 1 or 3 arbitrators. The Hong Kong Institute of Arbitrators is an association that promotes arbitration and brings the arbitration professionals together.
Arbitration Procedure
In order to have arbitration, the parties should agree to have recourse to it. By signing an arbitration clause in the contract, the parties agree not to have recourse to a court. The arbitrators will be asked to decide a sentence which will be final and binding on the parties. The sentence is thus enforceable like an award given by a Court.

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Latest Update: April 2024