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IP competitiveness of Korean companies is strong in crisis.(News Letter No. 484)



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1. IP competitiveness of Korean companies is strong in crisis

- While the number of patent applications of major countries filed in 2021 decreased, that of South Korea increased.

While the percent of the patent applications filed in the major countries, US, Japan, etc. slowed down or decreased due to the continuous impact of COVID-19, the percent of the applications filed in the Republic of Korea increased.

On June 21, 2022, KIPO published that the number of the patent applications filed with IP5 in 2021 totaled 2,890,000 and increased by about 4% compared to the previous year, based on “Key IP5 Statistical Indicators 2021” which was jointly published by the IP5, which is a forum of the five largest IP offices in the world, KIPO, USPTO, EPO, JPO and CNIPA.

The number of the applications filed with KIPO totaled 237,998, showing an increase of 5% compared to 2020, which was relatively higher than the increases in USPTO (1%), JPO (0.3%) and EPO (4.6%).

Notably, regarding the number of the patent applications filed with KIPO by foreign applicants, those filed by Chinese and US applicants increased by 47.5% and 16.2%, respectively, which were greater compared to 2020. Only the applications filed with KIPO by Japanese applicants increased by 1.1%; whereas, those filed with the other IP5 by Japanese applicants all decreased.

The major fields where the applications were filed with KIPO by US and Chinese applicants were commonly video games, audios/videos, measurements (semiconductor processes, self-driving, etc.)

This can be considered as the meaning that, as the Republic of Korea’s share in the world advanced technology has expanded, the Republic of Korea has become a major stage to measure success in entering the market according to the acquisition/obtaining of patent rights.

Upon reviewing the patent application indicators by country, the number of the applications filed with IP5 by Korean applicants totaled 256,472, with an increase of 2.5% compared to the previous year, Chinese applicants with an increase of 5.8% and European applicants with an increase of 3.2%; whereas that filed by US applicants decreased by 2%.

The number of the applications filed with IP5 by Korean applicants in 2021 and the increase in percent thereof are as follows: 17,691 applications were filed with CNIPA (increase of 5.8%), 9,394 with EPO (3.2%), 5,936 with JPO (0.9%), 37,197 with USPTO (-2%), 186,254 with KIPO (3.2%).

The above is considered as a result that, Korean companies focused on the IP managements flexibly to accord to the rapidly changing economic and technological environments, braking out of the custom that patent applications were concentratively filed in the world major countries, including US, etc.

2. An international patent application is to be filed on an internet screen only.

- World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) strengthens customer support by experts arranged in South Korea.

According to KIPO, from July 1, 2022 the way of electronically filing an international patent application under the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) has been united as a filing method using an internet web (ePCT) where the international patent application is filled out and submitted in the WIPO website.

Previously, a PCT-SAFE or ePCT were available by directly installing the relevant program in a personal computer in order to electronically file a PCT international patent application.

However, for the improvement of a user convenience and the efficiency of a system operation, WIPO ends the maintenance and repair of the PCT-SAFE software and unities the electronic filing system of the international application as the internet web-using filing method (ePCT) from July 2022.

In this regard, WIPO selected the ePCT customer support experts working for 365 days in 2021 and provided them with the KIPO Seoul office in January 2022, so that the Korean users are able to rapidly adapt the ePCT filing system.

Meantime, Korean ePCT users had experienced uneasiness or troubles due to the burdens in time difference, language difference and overseas call rates, etc. when they used the PCT consumer center of WIPO located in Geneva, Switzerland. However, from now on, Korean users are able to easily proceed with consultation on how to use the ePCT by a domestic call, anytime.

Starting this year, KIPO will also in time solve the difficulties that domestic users have, by expanding the roles of the customer support experts after consultation with WIPO.

The customer support experts figure out the difficulties in using the ePCT and the demand of ePCT education, etc. through close communications with applicants and patent office agents, to actively solve the domestic users’ problems.

WIPO’s arrangement of the customer support experts in the Republic of Korea and its decision to further strengthen the user support can be considered as appreciating Korean applicants as an important partner of PCT.

Actually, the number of the PCT international patent applications filed by Korean applicants in 2021 was 20,678 with an increase of 3.2% compared to the previous year, and this number placed 4th in the world ranking, following China, US and Japan.

3. A technology published within one (1) year can be patentable.

- KIPO published a current state of usage of a publication exception claiming system (grace period)

- The number of the cases of claiming a public exception totaled 76,063 for 20 years (2001~2020) and it sharply increased after the requirements of the system were revised in 2006 and 2012.

- The system was unified with US but it needs to be harmonized with Europe, China, etc.

According to KIPO on June 23, 2022, the publication exception claiming system was used in 76,063 patent and utility model applications over the last 20 years (2001~2020), and the number of the cases of claiming a publication exception remarkably increased from 732 in 2001 to 5,346 by year and this system was steadily used.

Upon reviewing the percentage using the publication exception claiming system by the types of applicants, 54.1% were used by universities, 16.3 by research institutes and public organizations, 11.0% by small and medium companies, 8.6% by domestic individuals, 4.9% by big companies, and 2.8% by middle market companies.

As to the percentage of a publication exception claim (2016~2020) compared to the number of the applications, 20.1% was for universities, 8.4% for research institutes and public organization and 8.0% for non-profit organizations. The percentage, 0.6%, for big companies, 1.4% for middle market companies, and 1.3% for small and middle business, which were relatively low.

This is considered since universities tended to file patent applications after publishing theses after technology developments; whereas companies filed applications immediately after technology developments to preoccupy markets.

From the view of current overseas status, US has a publication exception request period (grace period) which is 12 months as the same as Korea and admits a publication exception with respect to all types of publications. However, in Europe and China, etc., a publication exception request period is 6 months. The type of a publication admitted in Europe is that a publication is disclosed in an international fair, etc. China restricts the type of a publication to a publication which is disclosed in a international fair supervised and approved by the Chinese government and in an academic conference, etc. regulated by the same.

KIPO has been improving the domestic system for deregulation by relaxing the restriction to the type of a publication in 2006, and extending the publication exception request period in 2012 and introducing the complementary system in 2015 and it has also been continuing to discuss a global harmonization of the requirements of a publication exception in a WIPO meeting, etc. to improve the convenience of domestic companies going abroad and to protect the rights thereof.

4. An advanced driver assistance system (ADAS) advances the self-driving car era.

- The number of the patent applications relating to ADAS increased by 3 times over the last 6 years.

As some finished car manufactures, including Hyundai, Benz, Honda, etc., have carried forward the commercialization of level 3-autonomous vehicles which are capable of conditional self-driving, the ADAS technology to support drivers according to driving conditions has been highlighted.

ADAS technology is to automatically inform a driver of a dangerous situation, etc. by being aware of the driving situation through sensers, such as cameras, radar, lidar, etc., and to automate some driving functions of speed control, etc. The ADAS technology has commercialized an adaptive cruise control (ACC) to automatically control a distance from the vehicle in front, a smart parking assist system (SPAS) for self-parking, and a lane departure warning (LDW) to inform the driver of getting out of the driving lane, etc.

According to KIPO, the number of the ADAS-related patent applications filed with KIPO, USPTO, JPO, CNIPA and EPO was about 2,000 in 2013 and increased by an annual average about 20% to reach about 6,000 in 2019.

By country, China filed 30.7% of the total number of these applications, US 27.6%, Japan 20.8%, the Republic of Korea 10.6% and Europe 10.3%.

By the nationality of an applicant, Japan occupied the most, 90%, followed by China with 16.5%, Europe with 15.9%, the Republic of Korea with 14.9% and US with 11.8%.

Upon reviewing the applications filed by companies, Toyota, Hyundai, Honda and Nissan were in order, showing that many applications were filed by Japanese and Korean finished car manufactures, followed by the auto parts companies, including Bosch, Denso, Mando, Hitachi, etc.

As to Korean companies, the number of the applications filed by the electronic companies including LG, Samsung, etc., increased in addition to the applications filed by the car companies. Notably, small and medium companies including StradVision and Thinkware have steadily filed patent applications.

From the view of patent competitiveness based on US registered patents, US having a high technology impact index is considered as focusing in the technology for full self-driving car development, and Japan having a high market acquisition index is considered as more focusing on preoccupying the market through convenience and safety improvements. The technology impact index means the number that the registered patents of the relevant patentees were cited, on average, by follow-up patentees. The market acquisition index means the number of family entry countries compared to the number of registered patents of the relevant patentees.

Since the Republic of Korea showed an average level in the market acquisition index was evaluated as relatively low in the technology impact index, much more research and investment are needed for technical improvement to prepare for the self-driving car era.

5. A meeting of the Commissioners of the IP5 was held to celebrate a 10th anniversary of their industrial cooperation.

-A discussion of the IP roles was in earnest for a sustainable development.

According to KIPO, the commissioners of IP5 offices which are KIPO, USPTO, JPO, CNIPA and EPO held a banquet with the industrial representatives and a meeting of the commissioners on June 8th and 9th , to have a heated discussion on the IP’s roles to realize sustainable development goals and to discuss a future cooperation direction. The aforementioned industries are Korea Intellectual Property Association, US Intellectual Property Owners Association (IPO), America Intellectual Property Law Association (AIPLA), Japan Intellectual Property Association (JIPA), Patent Protection Association of China (PPAC) and BusinessEurope (BE).

IP5 are major 5 country offices (G5) in the IP field, occupying 85% of the worldwide patent applications. KIPO, which is an advanced IP organization which is in charge of IP applications in the scale corresponding to the 4th place in the worldwide ranking, established IP5 in 2007, together with USPTO, JPO, CNIPA and EPO, has taken the lead in creating a user-friendly global IP ecosystem.

Especially, this meeting was for the 10th anniversary that the industries have participated in the meeting of the commissioners of IP5, to have the time to celebrate past achievements and seek a plan for the patent offices and the industries to closely cooperate together.

The best achievement which was made through the cooperation between IP5 and the industries can be said one portal dossier (OPD) of the integrated search service of examination progress information. This OPD is the service making it possible to check at a glance each patent office’s examination progress information, such as results of prior art search regarding a patent application jointly filed in IP5, and this service has been open to people from 2015 so that anyone can use this service.

In addition, in 2021 they made a roadmap of a cutting-edge technology/artificial intelligence cooperation according to the request from the industries and then prepared international norms of a patent examination system in the advance technology field including AI, etc. They have been in the process of establishing a plan to enhance the efficiency by combining the relevant technology with patent administrative work.

This meeting is significant in that it was the first meeting to discuss the roles of IP to realize the UN substantiable development goals as a Humanity’s common challenge and the future cooperation directions.

The commissioners of IP5 also shared each patent office’s policies to rapidly respond to climate changes and to solve the imbalance between advanced countries and developing countries and exchange their opinions on future cooperation plans.

KIPO introduced an operation status of an accelerated examination to effectively protect the inventions in the green technology field, such as carbon reduction, etc. and it also introduced the results of the official development assistance for developing countries. Further, KIPO suggested that in the future IP5 come together to work out to solve the IP gaps between advanced countries and developing countries.


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