1. The number of IP applications broke the highest record ever
According to the Korean Intellectual Property Office (KIPO), the number of IP applications for patents, utility models, designs and trademarks filed in 2018 totaled 480,245.
This number is an increase of 4.9% compared with 457,955 in 2017, breaking the highest record in the yearly number of IP applications. (The highest record was 475,000 in 2015).
Classified by IP types, the number of patent applications was 209,992, design applications 63,680, trademark applications 200,341, respectively, increasing by 2.5%, 0.4% and 9.5% compared with the previous year. However, the number of utility model applications was 6,232, decreasing by 8.5% compared with the previous year.
Upon classifying the patent applications filed in 2018 by applicant types, small and medium companies filed the most applications with 47,947 (22.8%), followed by foreign companies with 46,288 (22.0%), individuals with 41,582 (19.8%), big companies with 34,535(16.4%) and universities and public research institutes with 27,055 (12.9%).
The number of patent applications filed by small and medium companies had greatly increased in 2015 (by 9% compared to the previous year, 2014), starting to pass the number of the applications filed by big companies and foreign companies and continued filing the most applications until 2018. The number of patent applications filed by big companies had decreased after 2014 but increased in 2018 by 3.6% compared with the previous year, rebounding over three (3) years.
2. Examination is strengthened regarding an application for a counterfeit trademark of a famous character and a trademark application for a term with high public benefit
According to KIPO, a revision of the trademark examination standards took effect from January 1, 2019, with the main content to strengthen an examination of an application for a trademark counterfeiting a famous character or a name of the character and to strict distinctiveness of a term having high public benefit, such as “YOLO”.
A famous character or a name of the character has been continuously counterfeited. Applications for trademarks counterfeiting well-known characters or their names were often filed by those that are not persons entitled to obtain a right and accordingly, sometimes disputes related to the relevant trademarks happened.
In the previous examination standards, after a famous character or its name was used for goods, such as stationery, toys, etc., an application for a trademark that might cause a misunderstanding or confusion of the goods and origin should be rejected.
However, according to the revised examination standards, even if a famous character or its name has not been yet commercialized, an application for a counterfeit trademark to be applied to goods that have a high chance for commercialization (clothing, footwear, hats, stationery, toys, etc.) shall be rejected, to strengthen protection.
A trademark application imitating a famous character or its name which has been commercialized is to be rejected, considering that the range of goods causing a misunderstanding or confusion of the origin is wide.
3. KIPO published a guidebook of the Chinese IP services for companies
KIPO published the guidebook of the Chinese IP services, which includes know-how regarding Chinese applications for IPs, requests for trials, procedures for reacting to infringements.
In China, Korean companies’ IP damages are still serious through counterfeit goods, trademark extortion, spread distributors of Hallyu (meaning the Korean Wave) imitation products.
Under the circumstance, this guidebook is formed for companies to establish the preemptive strategies to manage the Chinese IPs by increasing their understanding of the Chinese IP systems and services. The guidebook is formed of a total of three (3) volumes, application filing, trial, infringement response. Each volume includes the core procedures and practical know-how on the Chinese four (4) IP rights (patent, utility model, trademark and design).
This guidebook will be distributed, without cost, at the requests made from the official residences and IP-DESK in China, regional intellectual property centers, local small business administrations, KOTRA, trade association, chamber of commerce, etc., and has been available for downloading at the KIPO homepage (www.kipo.go.kr) since January 3, 2019.
4. The patent examination cooperation between Korea and China has been fully operated
- China for the first time operated the CSP with Korea in January 2019.
According to KIPO, the patent collaborative search program (CSP) between Korea and China has been in effect since January 1, 2019.
Under the CSP, when a request for CSP is made by an applicant filing a patent application (cross application) for the same invention in the two countries, the examiners of KIPO and CNIPA share results of prior art search and rapidly examine the relevant application prior to the other applications.
The CSP was proposed by the Republic of Korea in October 2014 and has been operated between Korea and US and between US and Japan.
As a result of operating the CSP between Korea and US (starting September 2015), the examination processing period averaged 7.5 months, shortened by 3.3 months compared with a general examination case. A concordance rate of the examination results between the two increased by 13.3%p compared with a general cross application (68.6%). Therefore, it has been confirmed that high-quality predictable examination results are rapidly available.
Based on the forgoing, Korean and US agreed to make the CSP as a regular program (May 2018) and to carry forward the expansion of CSP to the IP advanced countries, England, Germany, France, etc. and the big economic market sized countries, Brazil, India, ASEAN, etc.