Three years ago, post-90s entrepreneur Calvin Sio Kai Tong noticed a type of paper camera in Taiwan and since then he got an infatuation with it. He believes that it has huge potential in the market and more values can be added. Hence, he collaborated with Paper Shoot, a Taiwanese paper camera brand, after he has founded his own design brand Hylé Design Macau. They successfully developed the brand new CROZ D.I.Y Digital Camera with unique components, wooden materials and brass.
After raising approximately HK$240,000 via crowdfunding platform Kickstarter, Hylé Design Macau began to the production of the camera. The product has been sold in Macao, Hong Kong, Taiwan, USA, Japan and France, etc. since the end of last year and more than 3,000 cameras were sold. But Sio has yet to register the trademark for CROZ or apply for the patent. This sounds ridiculous if it were an international brand, however, in the creative industries in Macao, it is commonplace. Does it mean that the creative professionals in Macao do not care if their rights are infringed?
“In fact, I had made inquiries about the patent registration to relevant governmental departments in Macao. There was a lot of paper work back and forth and every time I got a headache. In the end nothing has been done. We consulted the lawyer and we found out that it may not be necessary to apply for patent in Macao, Hong Kong and Taiwan because patent infringement is uncommon. Only big brands will apply for patents in Macao,” Sio explained in his office, which is stuffed with wooden materials.
Of course, the amount of the investing capital is one of his major considerations. “You do not have much funding when you just start the business. You normally won’t think of spending thousands of money to apply patents. This sounds just ridiculous. I know that brands like Apple will apply for patents even before the products are launched and they will carry out analysis of market positioning too. But we have no resources to do that. It’s impossible for us to invest a huge amount of money to apply for patents when we are yet to know whether the product is successful or not.”
Unlike ordinary cameras, CORZ allows user to assemble different components and there are only four to six steps to complete. Different styles of cameras can be made according to the types of components and lens. Such design has won Taiwan’s 2016 Golden Pin Design and China’s 2017 Design Intelligence Award. Hylé Design Macau has only patented CORZ’s design and invention in the Mainland.
“We all know that even big brands encounter a lot of disputes about intellectual property rights in the Mainland. When we were still designing the camera we had already thought of applying for patent. But we didn’t have enough money back then so we had no resources to do so. This explains why CORZ was not sold in the Mainland at the very beginning.” He pointed out that when he secured enough funding at the beginning of this year, he applied for patent in the Mainland via an agent. The total cost was about 80,000 yuan. The estimate time for approval is a year. Sio is confident that the design patent will be approved. But the benchmark for invention patent is high so he thought that the chance of success is low. “In the Mainland, the purpose of applying patent is not to stop someone from copying your product. Instead, it serves as a protection in case if you were sued for copyright infringement,” said Sio with a bitter smile.
Even the camera has no patents applied in the overseas markets like USA, Japan and France, Sio said that quality management standards like ISO were applied for the camera so as to make sure that the product matches the safety standards in respective countries and to minimise the risks of being sued. “We will only apply for patents only if we plan to get a foothold in certain markets. But the case in the Mainland is different. Everything has to be patented because there are people out there to take advantage of the systems.”
Sio thought that comparing to other countries, the creative industries in Macao have not enough understanding of intellectual property rights. “Apart from having not enough money, a lot of companies here do not have enough knowledge about patent. You won’t invest in it if you do not have understanding of the issue. The government should provide more information about this to creative companies, or even provide professional consultation services.”
“It’s very important to know how to protect your own brand as it is the most valuable thing you get in the creative field.”