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Intellectual Property (IP) system to change in 2021(News Letter No. 449)



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1. Intellectual Property (IP) system to change in 2021

-Focused on strengthening IP protection, supporting small and medium companies and midsize companies and improving people convenience
-punitive damages, tax credit of patent search and analysis costs, mobile filing of applications…

The Korean Intellectual Property Office (KIPO) published the ‘IP system to change in 2021’, including the implementation of punitive damages for idea stealing, a tax credit for patent search and analysis costs for small and medium companies, and the introduction of a mobile filing system of an application, etc.

The IP system changes in this year have focused on ▲strengthening IP protection, ▲minimizing damages by COVID-19 through support for small and medium companies and midsize companies, plus ▲improving the convenience in obtaining IP rights. The major system changes in 2021 are as follows:

(1) IP as core assets in the era of post-COVID-19 are more strongly protected.

Anyone that willfully steals another’s idea shall compensate the victim up to 3 times of an amount recognized as damages (April 2021). In addition, the method of calculating damages to be compensated under the Trademark Law, Design Protection Law, and Unfair Competition Prevention Law is improved so that the owner of a right can receive the compensation of damages with respect to the sales exceeding the owner’s production capacity (June 2021).

(2) Damages in the IP areas by COVID-19 are minimized by supporting small and medium companies and midsize companies.

The cost of patent search and analysis which a small or medium company has paid to an IP diagnosis institution is included in the R&D tax credit (starting in January 2021).

Fee reduction in the case of joint-research with a small or medium company is expanded to all subjects, and not only fees for filing an application and requesting examination but also fees for registering a right are reduced by 50% (March 2021).

Dispute information monitoring is expanded to strengthen the support for export companies in the materials, components and equipment fields in coping with patent disputes. Further, these companies are supported with advance analysis and advice of a dispute risk and the establishment of dispute response strategies (January 2021).

An object to support a global IP start company (a local promising export small or medium company) in responding to an examination of an application filed in a foreign country and paying registration fees is expanded from a patent (application) to trademark and design (applications) (January 2021).

(3) The convenience of an applicant is improved to easily secure an IP right.

It is possible to file an application for patent, utility model or design by using a smart phone. Further, most of KIPO’s civil affairs including a payment of fees and a receipt of a notice are processed by a mobile device (December 2020). Filing an application for trademark by a mobile device has been in operation since March 2020.

Detailed examination standards for the non-traditional trademarks such as a trademark in a new type, a motion mark and a color trademark, etc. are established (January 2021). Requirements for submitting drawings in a three-dimensional mark and a location mark are relaxed (February 2021).

An object to be requested for a collective examination is expanded and the requirements thereof are relaxed. An object to undergo the collective examination includes a group of products which are similar products and a digital service. A startup can also use the collective examination (December 2020). When an application requested for a collective examination is finally rejected, an appeal thereon is added to an accelerated trial, enabling early review in a trial whether to make a right (March 2021).

Fees for filing an application are reduced to encourage the use of a temporary specification system under which a thesis or a research note, etc. can be filed for an application as it is (March 2021). Articles to be under a design partial examination system are expanded to food, miscellaneous goods, packaging containers, jewelry and ornaments, etc. (December 2020). As described above, the changes are introduced for the convenience of an applicant.

2. KIPO held a presentation for 2021 trademark and design systems and trends

-'Expansion of a subject for protection of new technical computer-generated graphic designs’, ‘introduction of a partial rejection system and re-examination requesting system’, ‘Strengthening an examination of functionality of a non-traditional mark’

KIPO held the contactless online presentation for ‘2021 trademark and design systems and trends.’

This presentation introduced trademark examination standards, improvements in design system, amendments in the notified classification of goods and in the examination standards for similar goods, and content to be pursued for the revision in Trademark Law and Design Protection Law.

In the trademark area, the examination of functionality of the non-traditional marks, such as three-dimensional mark, location mark, sound mark, etc., is strengthened and the standards for the number of drawings to be submitted for a three-dimensional mark and a location mark are relaxed.

In the classification of goods, only a trademark which is clearly described as to its use, such as “video game software, music composition software”, is registerable. Regarding whether a ‘trademark (goods)’ and a ‘service mark (service business)’ are similar to each other, an examination shall be specifically and individually conducted focusing on the ‘use’ of these two marks, to prepare the reasonable standards for goods to be consistent with the actual transaction in the software industry.

3. A group monitoring overseas online counterfeit products has controlled fake products imitating Korean companies’ products, resulting in preventing damages of 420 billion Korea Won

- Catching and blocking 144,000 counterfeit product posts, and providing multicultural families with jobs

According to KIPO, a telecommuting group for monitoring overseas online counterfeit products (hereinafter, referred to as the ‘monitoring group’), which was started by securing the 3rd supplementary budget for 2020, caught and blocked a total of 144,000 cases regarding counterfeit product posts over about 5 months from August to the end of December 2020, resulting in the effect of preventing damages reaching 420 billion Korea Won.

The monitoring group started to strengthen the actions against counterfeit product distribution in ASEAN six (6) countries and Taiwan and to contribute to the creation of contactless and digital jobs. The monitoring group includes about 200 people including women who previously lost their job and multicultural families. The ASEAN six (6) countries are Malesia, Vietnam, Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand and Philippines.

This group monitored the counterfeit product posts of Lazada and Shopee which are the 1st and 2nd companies in the ASEAN online shopping malls.

Upon reviewing the posts by items, K-POP goods, fashion accessories, etc. are 70% of all of the posts, and by countries, Philippines, Indonesia and Singapore in order have many cases of counterfeit products caught and blocked.

As KIPO has secured an extra budget bill in the 2021 budget, it plans to continue to operate the monitoring group and concentrate on minimizing Korean export companies’ damages caused by the distribution of counterfeit products.

4. It becomes easy to file patent applications for Artificial Intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT), bio, etc. and obtain patents thereon.

- KIPO established standards for granting a patent in the digital new industrial area.

In the future, it becomes even easier to file a patent application and to obtain a patent in the digital new industrial area.

On January 19, 2021, KIPO published that the standards to grant a patent in the digital new industrial area were established to support a Korean company so as to create a future growth engine by securing a high-quality patent at home and abroad.

The guide of examination practice including the standards to grant a patent in the digital new industrial area presents the requirements for determining whether an invention is patentable focused on the convergence technology regarding the five (5) core areas including AI, IoT service, bio among the others, the requirements for describing an application, and various cases, etc.

The major content is as follows:

In the AI area, the guide provides guidelines on how to prepare an application to obtain a high-quality patent as the relevant companies have complained of difficulties by nature of a new industry, standards to grant a patent by types, and specific judgement cases, etc.

In the IoT service area, the standards to grant a patent are set to sufficiently consider the features and effects by service areas of an invention, to encourage Korean companies to enter the market and to escape from irrationality which applies the existing standards to grant a patent based on the manufacturing industry to the ICT (information and communications technology) convergence technology.

In the seed industry area, the standards to grant a patent are relieved so that when a seed is improved by using the CRISPER (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats) technology, if a new effect results by differing an application crop, the seed can be protected as a patent. Further, tips for writing an application and exemplary cases are provided for an applicant.

In the bio area, the standards to grant a patent as to an AI-based new medicine development are complemented, to support a company in establishing the optimal strategies for a patent application by steps of developing the drug repositioning technology using AI.


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