30th November 2013
TVB Registers “HKTV” as Trademark
After its attempt to file judicial review to stop the HKSAR Government from issuing a free-to-air TV license to HKTV and using one of its programmes to discredit HKTV, Television Broadcast Limited (commonly known as TVB) took another move to ensure its monopoly in Hong Kong’s television broadcasting sector. TVB filed an application in May 2013 to Intellectual Property Department to register the trademarks of “HKTV” and “香港電視 (HKTV in Cantonese)”. Television Broadcast Limited is widely known as TVB (even to Cantonese speakers in Hong Kong), such move has raised questions. Academic commented that “this is an ungentlemanly behaviour”
According to Intellectual Property Department (IPD)’s online database, TVB submitted two trademark applications on 20 May 2013 which are: TVB’s logo combine with “HKTV” and TVB’s logo combine with “香港電視 (HKTV in Cantonese)”. The applications include goods, broadcasting services, television entertainment, computer services and internet and digital images and audio. It took the IPD merely six months to approve the applications, which were published on 22 November. TVB also applied to register the word only version trademarks, that is “HKTV” and “香港電視 (HKTV in Cantonese)” without TVB’s logo. These two trademarks are identical to HKTV’s English and Cantonese names, and the applications are still pending for approval.
HKTV, owned by Ricky Wong Wai-kei, announced the establishment of Hong Kong Television Network Limited, and HKTV in short, and its logo designed is based on a human brain. HKTV submitted four rounds of trademark applications to the IPD between November 2012 and April 2013, so far only one application has been approved. HKTV’s spokesperson declined to comment on other companies’ matters. However, after it learnt that TVB has applied to register the trademarks of “HKTV” and “香港電視”, HKTV has submitted an enquiry to the IPD and will be seeking legal advise. TVB did not response to enquiry.
Mr To Yiu-ming, Assistant Professor from Department of Journalism at Hong Kong Baptist University said that “無線 (pronounces as “Mo Sin” which means cable-less)” is the short form of Television Broadcast Limited, and the names “TVB” and “無線” are widely recognised and understood as the company’s brands. He also thinks that the public would certainly question why TVB wants to register “HKTV” trademarks.
“(HKTV was not granted a license), and now TVB wants to take HKTV’s name! Kicking someone when he is down and then take advantage of him (HKTV’s well recognised brand) is simply ungentlemanly!” Mr To also thinks that TVB’s move will trigger adverse effects, “it’s in a way promoting Ricky Wong’s company!” Nicholas Chan Hiu-fung, a legal expert on trademark issues, said that although TVB’s trademark applications were granted, but other third parties with reasonable grounds can object the approvals. IPD stressed that the department reviews the entire trademark of each application, but not review the logo and wordings separately. IPD also said that if anyone wishes to object an approval, he/she has to file the objection within three months after the trademark was published.
Although the names of their company have been “taken”, HKTV staff have not given up. The ten HKTV staff members who protested at the government headquarter for days are returning to the spot to discuss their next step with the public.
At TVB’s post anniversary celebration dinner yesterday, Norman Leung Nai-pang, Executive Chairman of TVB, said that the viewership of the channel’s anniversary show was good: 30 viewership points for the live show, and the viewership was 5 points when the show was re-aired. “TVB is not a target for bullying. TVB’s 46 years of history is not built by luck!” He also mentioned that there is no set day to lift the ban on journalists from Next Media Group (including Apple Daily and Next Magazine) to interview TVB actors. Leung said that the ban was imposed because TVB wants to protect its reputation.
Soon after the HKTV saga broke out, the public has been condeming TVB’s monopoly, its biased news reports and entertainment programmes that slashed HKTV. The public came up with the “switch off TV” campaign with an aim to drive the viewership down. However, given the viewership measurement mechanism (only 800 families in the entire Hong Kong is covered by this daily measurement), TVB’s viewership on the day of the campaign was 29 points. 29 points is in fact the lowest ever viewership in the past 20 years or so for TVB’s anniversary show.
Compare to ATV (the pro-China channel that the public has been calling for its shut down to free up the TV license) that receives no more than 5 points on any given time of the year, TVB is essentially the only TV channel that Hong Kong people can watch.
After the “switch off TV” campaign, which was widely reported by the print media, especially Apple Daily, TVB issued a statement banning journalists from Next Media Group from interviewing any of the TVB actors. In response to TVB’s action, Hong Kong Journalists Association also issued a statement condemning TVB for infringing press freedom.