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The number of applications for IP rights including patent, trademark, etc. filed in 2020 is the most in history(News Letter No. 450)

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KH

Post Date 

2021-02-16

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1. The number of applications for IP rights including patent, trademark, etc. filed in 2020 is the most in history

-About 557,000 cases are the most filed historically, with an increase of 9.1% which is the highest since 2006.
-A high increase around small and medium companies is in the digital economy, medical treatment and medicine areas.

The number of IP applications filed in 2020 even during difficult economic conditions due to COVID-19 passed over about 557,000 per year, recording the highest ever.

Especially, while the number of the applications filed by small and medium companies increased remarkably, the number of the applications in the digital economy, medical treatment and medicine areas increased sharply.

According to KIPO, the number of the IP applications for patent, trademark, design, etc. was totaled 557,229 with an increase of 9.1% compared to 2019. This number is the highest increase rate since 2006 and the most applications ever filed. Further, in December 2020, 62,065 applications were filed, showing a heavy increase of 19.1% compared to the same month of the previous year and renewing the record in the monthly application number.

Regarding these trends, a spokesperson of KIPO gave meaning to the point that: “as shown in the past cases, the filing of IP applications has been directly operatively connected to the GDP growth. The quantity of the applications has sharply increased in spite of the difficult situation of COVID-19 and this trend shows a positive outlook on our economy.”

Upon reviewing the application trends by IP rights, 257,933 trademark applications were filed (16.4% increase), followed by 231,740 patent applications (including utility model applications, 3.3% increase) and 67,556 design applications (3.9% increase).

Notably, the number of trademark applications recorded the highest increase for the last 20 years, passing the number of patent applications in the 36 years since 1985. This is considered as reflecting that a social awareness of a brand value has taken hold.

By the types of applicants, the number of applications filed by small and medium companies increased the most, followed by the applications filed by individuals, universities and public institutes and big companies in order. The small and medium companies showed an increase of 17.8% in the number of the patent, trademark and design applications, leading the whole IP applications. This is considered as a result that small and medium companies preemptively responded to changes in the times.

In patent applications, a highest increase of 8.4% was shown with 10,407 applications in the electronic commerce area, supporting the growth of online transaction markets according to the expansion of digital economy.

In addition, 9,983 applications (8.1% increase) were filed in the medical treatment area, 4,380 applications (4.8% increase) in the medicine area and 4,566 applications (2.7% increase) in the bio area, reflecting a high interest in the medical treatment and hygiene areas.

In design applications, the most design applications were filed in the packaging supplies, and 3,903 applications were filed in the household health and hygiene products recording an unusual increase of 125.9%.

In trademark applications, 8,391 trademark applications (42.7% increase) were filed related to medical devices and 14,530 trademark applications (31.3% increase) were filed related to drug classification, showing a sharp increase.

As the number of personal broadcasting such as YouTube has increased, 7,998 trademark applications (37.3% increase) were filed relating to the broadcasting communication business and 26,865 trademark applications (18.0% increase) were filed relating to electronic, audio and video equipment classification, also recording a high increase.

The number of the trademark applications relating to a service business increased by 12.6%, indicating a higher number than that of the trademark applications relating to goods. From this, a reorganization to the industrial structure of advanced countries focused on the service industry is considered as progressing.

Of 45 Classes, the number of trademark applications relating to the Classification of goods (1-34 Classes) increased by 8.9% (that is, 172,467 applications in 2019 ∪ 187,880 in 2020), and the number of applications relating to the Classification of service businesses (35-45 Classes) increased by 12.6% (that is, 115,387 in 2019 ∪ 129,965 in 2020).



2. A seminar was held regarding a response to IP infringement in China and the new southern countries

-Damage cases by overseas distribution of counterfeit products and contactless education on countermeasures

From January 26 through 28, 2021, KIPO and Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Corporation held a video seminar on how to respond to IP infringement in China and the new southern countries.

Based on the ‘guide on how to respond to IP infringement’ which was recently published in overseas IP-DESK located in China (including Hong Kong), Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia and India, this event was arranged to guide practical matters to minimize a Korean export company’s damage caused by an infringement to IP, such as the distribution of a counterfeit product in the relevant area.

The local lawyers and patent attorneys participated in this event for 3 days, to introduce the procedures and cases on taking civil and criminal suits, administrative control, sending a warning letter, responding to customs, reporting a online platform, etc. As for China having the biggest size of counterfeit production and distribution, domestic control and border control were separately and specifically presented. Notably, since the border control through the customs is the means to block, at the border, the counterfeit products produced in China and exported to the Southeast Asia and the Middle East, etc., this is the matter that must be known by an export company which had usually experienced any difficulties by the spread of counterfeits produced in China.



3. The trademark examination standards regarding non-traditional trademarks (three-dimensional, sound, color trademarks, etc.) have been revised

- This revision expects to improve an accuracy in examination of a trademark in a new form and to improve an applicant’s convenience.

According to Mr. Yong Rae KIM (Commissioner of KIPO), as the number of cases where a trade dress which was filed as a trademark of a company in an application and registered has increased, the trademark examination standards were revised to improve the accuracy in examining the non-traditional trademarks, such as three-dimensional trademark, sound trademark, color trademark, etc., and to improve the convenience of an applicant (effective on January 1, 2021).

A trade dress as an overall image and comprehensive appearance of a product to be distinguished from another product or service includes the product’s size, shape, color or a combination of colors, touch feeling, figure, design, etc.

The major content of the revision to the trademark examination standards are as follows:

First, there has been a case where the entire exterior of a building as a business place to sell a product or to provide a service is widely used to be recognized as a specific person’s trademark. Since the revision established detailed standards to protect the entire exterior of a building as a registered trademark, an applicant can indicate, in an application, the interior and exterior of a building by using a solid line (for the section to be protected) and a dotted line (for the section excluded from the protection, which is changeable according to an actual trademark use).

In addition, under the revised Enforcement Rules of the Trademark Law (effective February 1, 2021), the restriction of the number of minimum drawings to be submitted is revised (which is improved from previously 2~5 sheets to 1~5 sheets) such that if only one drawing can indicate the features of a three-dimensional trademark or a location trademark, it is possible to file an application with that drawing and therefore, an applicant’s convenience is expected to be improved.

Second, the scope of a location trademark is expanded from ‘a shapeㆍfigure acquiring a distinctiveness of a trademark used at a specific location of goods’, which is recognized through the previous precedents of the Korea Supreme Court, to include ‘a color acquiring the distinctiveness of a trademark used at a specific location of goods’.

The relevant system was strengthened so that if the function of origin indication of a product is acquired as a result of using a trademark at a specific location of goods, a color can be protected as a location trademark.

The revised Enforcement rules has expanded an indication method such than an applicant can indicate various colors (from currently Pantone to Pantone, Hex, RAL, RGB, CMYK, KS A 0062, etc. under the revised rules) and improved the matters relating to acquiring a distinctiveness of a sound trademark.

Last, the examination standards have been strengthened in order for a functional three-dimensional shape to be protected as a patent not to be registered as a trademark, by complementing the examination of functionality of a non-traditional trademark.

Functionality means an essentially required feature in securing the function of goods or the function of packaging the goods. In the case where a trademark comprising of only a functional three-dimensional shape, color, sound or smell is registered, as it is protected as a trademark right semi-permanently beyond the patent term of 20 years, fair competition may be hindered. Therefore, the strengthened examination standards are to prevent fair competition from being hindered.



4. The number of patent applications in the OLED material field increased by an annual average of 5%

- Korean companies’ filing the relevant patent applications in the OLED material field is remarkable.

According to KIPO, the number of patent applications in the organic light-emitting diode (OLED) material field steadily increased over the last 5 years (2015~2019), from 533 in 2015 to 651 in 2019, showing a steady increase of 5% as an annual average.

The OLED material field relates to organic compounds involving in luminescence of an OLED panel which is the latest display used for a portable phone, TV, etc. The materials used for OLED are divided into a light-emitting layer material and a common layer material. The light-emitting layer material comprises of a host substance and a dopant substance. These materials stack between electrodes, to form an OLED panel.

By the types of an applicant, over the last 5 years (2015~2019), Korean companies have led 79.0% of the patent applications in the OLED material field and foreign companies have 16.2% thereof.

Upon reviewing the number of the applications filed by Korean companies for the last 5 years, LG affiliates filed the most patent applications, 939, followed by Samsung affiliates with 422, Duksan Neolux with 245 and Doosan with 203.

Specifically, the number of patent applications relating to a dopant which was relatively insignificant in entering the OLED market was 110 filed by Korean applicants and 22 filed by foreign applicants for the last 3 years, so that Korean companies filed the relevant applications five times more than foreign applicants, leading them. Korean companies are expected to do good in the dopant market in the future. A dopant as a core material of an OLED is a light-emitting substance realizing a color within a light-emitting layer.  

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