The South Korean Patent System
South Korean IP Office
The governmental agency in charge of handling intellectual property rights in South Korea is the Korean Intellectual Property Office (KIPO) located in Daejeon. This office is a part of the “IP5 Offices” group, which includes the KIPO, the EPO, the JPO, the SIPO and the USPTO, where a combined total of approximately 80% of all patent applications worldwide are filed.
Filing Patents in South Korea
An Korean patent application must contain the applicant and inventors’ names and addresses, as well as the citizenship of the inventors. The place of incorporation of the applicant may be provided if applicable. The necessary elements of an application are: the title, the abstract, the specification, the claims, as well as any drawings necessary to adequately describe the invention. In addition, any portion of the specification not in Korean must be accompanied by a Korean translation. A power of attorney is required.
In 2001, the Korean Patent Law has been amended. One of the key modifications was the rule establishing that publishing an invention on the internet prior to the filing date creates prior art against the application, unless the publisher is the inventor, himself, in which case a six month grace period applies. In addition, the change in law entails that no new matter may be introduced in response to office actions. The amendment changes the damages calculation to increase infringement damages, as well as the maximum infringement fine and the maximum term of imprisonment.
The patent term in Korea is 20 years, and the utility model term is 10 years. Design patents are protected for 15 years.
The Patent Cooperation Treaty National Stage in South Korea
South Korea is a member of the Patent Cooperation Treaty (“PCT”) and a member of the Paris Convention. KIPO has been increasingly popular with patent attorneys as an International Search Authority during examinations, mainly among U.S. patent lawyers. As a result, in the last five years the number of search requests has increased by more than 100% annually.
South Korea handles the fifth largest number of PCT applications in the world, behind the U.S., China, Japan and Germany.
Recent Intellectual Property Trends in South Korea
Considering that the Information Technology (“IT”) industry has experienced a substantial growth, approximately 60 IT companies in South Korea have been subject to ongoing scrutiny from the Korean Fair Trade Commission (KFTC), for potential abuse of patent rights.