International Communications

My office is housed in the North American headquarters, but our company is Hong Kong based. Much of what I do has to be approved by the Hong Kong IP Department. That means two problems often come up – the time difference in trying to communicate and the language barrier. Everyone in the Hong Kong office speaks English, but not always very well.

All of the US IP decisions are made by the North American group, but the legal bills are paid by Hong Kong. Below is an email discussion I am having with a Hong Kong employee over an invoice. The conversation has now spread over four days.

1st email (with attachment) – From Hong Kong to me:
“We have received some invoices from Law Firm A, but we do not know what they are for. Could you please help to check and advise.”

2nd email – From me to Hong Kong:
“Law Firm A is our Canadian law firm that handles all Canadian matters. They have referenced our legal file number on the invoices and given a summary of their services. What kind of information are you looking for and I will provide it.”

3rd email (with attachment) – From Hong Kong to me:
“Sorry for the missing attachment. Please find enclosed for your reference.” (at this point I laugh because I am not sure why she thought I didn’t get the invoices)

4th email – From me to Hong Kong:
“What kind of information do you need? Law Firm A does all of our IP work in Canada and those invoices relate to our files.”

5th email – From Hong Kong to me:
“As Law Firm A is asking for the payment schedule, and I would like to know that did these invoices settle yet.” (I think “aha” she is making sure we have not already paid the bills locally)

6th email – From me to Hong Kong:
“These invoices have not been paid by us here, but they do need to be paid”

7th email – From Hong Kong to me:
“So will these invoices be paid by your office, or paid by us in Hong Kong.” (I thought I had been clear that Hong Kong should pay, but maybe not)

8th email – From me to Hong Kong:
“Please pay them in your Hong Kong office.”

9th email – From Hong Kong to me:
“Since I need to get approval from a director for payment of all invoices, and I need a clear picture to show a director to get the approval. Is there anyone I can contact in Hong Kong Office whom will know the details of these invoices for. Otherwise, I cannot get the approval from a director.”

10th email – From me to Hong Kong:
“I am still not sure what kind of information you are looking for. What do you need explained or answered exactly?” Depending on what kind of information you need, someone in the IP department in Hong Kong might be able to answer” (I am back to being confused)

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