1. The enthusiasm for the 4th industrial revolution technology development did not cool even in COVID-19
- The number of patent applications for the 4th industrial revolution-related technology increased by 11.2% in 2020.
According to KIPO, despite the influence of COVID-19 last year, the number of the patent applications for the 4th industrial revolution-related technology including Artificial Intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT), autonomous driving, etc. totaled of 20,503, showing an increase of 11.2% compared to the previous year (18,443).
By fields, 5,472 patent applications were filed for AI used throughout the 4th industrial revolution technology, 5,300 for digital health care for contactless healthcare, and 4,082 for autonomous driving as a future core technology.
Specifically, the digital healthcare-related applications (3,968→5,300) and biomarker-related applications (546→722) increased by more than 30% compared to the previous year, showing a marked increase. The number of IoT-related applications (1,358→1,578) increased by 16.2%.
The increase in the number of the patent applications for the 4th industrial revolution-related technology was far higher than the increase in the total number of the Korean patent applications (with 3.3% increase). This is considered as reflecting the efforts of the companies to prepare a new leap by a technology preemption in the 4th industrial revolution technology field since the interest in health has increased due to COVID-19 and aging and the 4th industrial revolution has extensively proceeded focusing on AI and IoT.
In line with the convergence trend of technology, the number of patent applications related to the convergence of technology had continued to increase (with an increase of 36.7% on an annual average for the last 10 years), and a total of 1,263 applications thereof were filed in 2020, increasing by 23.0% compared to 2019.
Specifically, many applications were filed for the combined technologies, such as the combined AI and digital health care (500 cases), the combined AI and bigdata (239 cases) and the combined AI and IoT (220 cases). These numbers confirm the fact that as AI has converged with another technology, the converged technology has been established as a base technology of the 4th industrial revolution.
Recently, an increase in the number of applications related to the technology utilizing AI (279→500 cases with 79.2% increase) or bigdata (43→65 cases with 51.2% increase) in the digital health care field has increased.
2. South Korea and Saudi Arabia start a joint patent examination
- Among the Middle East countries, Saudi Arabia will first operate a joint patent examination with South Korea in July.
KIPO announced to operate a Collaborative Search Program (CSP) between South Korea and Saudi Arabia to jointly conduct patent examination from July 1, 2021.
Under CSP, when a patent application for the same invention is filed in two countries, the examiners of the two countries together search whether there is the prior art similar to the invention and they share the result of the search, thereby providing a rapid and accurate patent examination service than a general examination.
Using CSP, an invention which has been requested for examination in common in South Korea and Saudi Arabia is able to get an accurate examination service, at the latest, within 6 months from the date of requesting the examination by the cooperation of the examiners of both countries. Since it takes about 21 months (as of 2018) to get a general examination in Saudi Arabia, using CSP brings the effect of reducing a patent examination period by about 15 months compared to the present time.
CSP is the system which was first proposed by South Korea in October 2014 for a Korea company to rapidly and accurately seek a foreign patent. At present, CSP as a pilot project has operated with US and China.
As a result of the CSP between South Korea and US (since September 2015), the process period of a patent examination is shortened and the concordance of results of the patent examination between the two countries is also much higher as 90.2%, compared to a general examination (68.6%). Considering this, when CSP starts between South Korea and Saudi Arabia, most of Korean patents are expected to be granted in Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Arabia has about 34 million people and owns the largest domestic market among the Middle East countries. Korean companies’ entry to Saudi Arabia has continued to increase due to the K-food, K-diagnosis and quarantine, K-beauty population, among others.
The number of Korean companies’ accumulated patent applications filed in Saudi Arabia was 301 (2015~2019) and the number of Korean companies entered in Saudi Arabia is 29 (as of June 2021).
The operation of CSP between South Korea and Saudi Arabia is expected to be very helpful to a Korean company, which enters Saudi Arabia and uses this as a bridgehead to carry forward the business expansion, to secure a patent right and to preoccupy a market.
3. A patent application for COVID-19 vaccine is designated as a subject to undergo a preferential examination
-16 patent applications specialized in the COVID-19 vaccine were filed by Korean companies.
-South Korea’s global vaccine production hub is supported by an expedited patent examination.
According to KIPO, a patent application in the COVID-19 vaccine field has been designated as a subject for a preferential examination for 1 year starting from June 23, 2021.
This designation as a subject for a preferential examination is to support the development and production of a COVID-19 Korean vaccine, as a part of the follow-up measures of the ‘Korea-US global vaccine partnership’ agreed to in the Korea-US summit in last May. A patent examination of the technology related to a vaccine developed or produced in South Korea is preferentially processed to support a Korean vaccine company in rapidly securing a patent.
The subjects of a preferential examination as recently designated are ➊ a patent application relating to a COVID-19 vaccine supported by a national R&D project, and ➋ a patent application filed by a vaccine company which produces a COVID-19 vaccine in Korea or prepares a production, like a clinic, etc.
Recently KIPO has amended the Enforcement Ordinance of the Korean Patent Act (effective on June 23, 2021) to flexibly and rapidly deal with an emergency, such as COVID-19, and the Commissioner of KIPO has designated and published the subject of a preferential examination by official authority.
This designation on a COVID-19 vaccine development and production technology as a subject of a preferential examination is a first case using the newly introduced system of designating a preferential examination by authority.
Due to this action, a company which develops a Korean COVID-19 vaccine, produces a COVID-19 vaccine or is proceeding a clinic with the government R&D budget support is expected to more easily obtain a preferential examination in the future. When a preferential examination is applied, an invention is to be undergone a patent examination within about 2 months. That is, the patent examination period can be reduced up to maximum 1 year, compared to a general examination period.
The number of patent applications specializing in a COVID-19 vaccine, which were filed by Korean companies which have been proceeding a clinic, is confirmed as 16 (as of the end of May 2021). If a Korean vaccine development is accelerated by the government support in the future, the number of the subjects requesting preferential examination will be increased.
4. A meeting of the Commissioners of the 5 leading Intellectual Property Offices (IP5) was held
-To carry forward the unification of a patent examination in the high-tech field including AI and to expect the improvement in the convenience of an applicant.
In the video conference of the IP5 Commissioners held in the Daejeon Government Complex on June 23, 2021, the IP5 adopted a statement with the major content of approving the cooperation roadmap of a New Emerging Technologies/AI (NET/AI) which is a high-tech technology to proactively respond to the rapid development of the digital technology including AI, etc. and to provide an efficient patent examination service.
This 14th meeting of the Commissioners was attended by Yong Rae KIM, KIPO Commissioner, Drew Hirschfeld (USPTO Acting Commissioner), Changyu SHEN (CNIPA Commissioner), Toshihide KASUTANI (JPO Commissioner) and António Campinos (EPO President) and it was visited by Lisa Jorgenson (WIPO Deputy Director General).
The NET/AI cooperation roadmap is very meaningful in the point that it was the fruit made through the agreement of IP5 within 2 years after KIPO and EPO jointly formed the NET/AI task force and led the discussions.
The roadmap as agreed to at this time includes a cooperation plan in the 4 fields of: △ improving the unification of a patent examination system on an invention in the NET/AI fields, such as AI, etc., △ improving an examination service using the NET/AI, △ improving the efficiency in searching prior art in the NET/AI field, and △ sharing the NET/AI related trends.
① Legal aspect: Improvement of unification of a patent examination system
⦁ sharing an NET/AI-related invention cases
⦁ sharing examination practices of an AI-related invention
⦁ Comparing and researching patent examination standards of an AI invention
② Information aspect: Improvement of examination service
⦁ Improving an AI-based machine translation service
⦁ Sharing a current situation of blockchain technology utilization
⦁ Strengthening a capacity to use NET/AI
③ Classification: Improvement of efficiency in prior art search
⦁ Amending a classification table in NET/AI
⦁ Sharing AI-using classification cases and data
⦁ Establishing evaluation standards of AI classification system
④ Statistics: Sharing of NET/AI trends
⦁ Exchanging statistics of NET/AI applications
⦁ Sharing a statistic analysis method among IP5
⦁ Building an updated statistics analysis system using AI
The IP5 Commissioners agreed to operate new tasks to improve an applicant’s convenience, such as the unification of a patent transfer system, the unification of drawing forms to be submitted together with a patent application, etc.
Specially, the task of the ‘unification of a patent transfer system’ is to enable a Korean company (applicant), which acquires or merges with a foreign company and also takes over a patent-related right, to submit the same documents to the IP5 Patent Offices. When this task is completed, it will be expected to greatly contribute to the simplification in M&A procedures.
In a ‘joint meeting of the IP5 Commissioners and the industrial representatives’ which was held on June 22, one day before the meeting of the IP5 Commissioners, time was provided to share the results of discussions on the NET/AI task force and the patent system harmonization and to freely discuss on the subject of ‘IP5 cooperation after the pandemic’.
5. CNIPA implements a strong evidence collection system in a patent infringement dispute
-It is possible to secure evidence by field investigation, examination of parties involved, etc. and to order stop an infringement act.
According to China National Intellectual Property Administration (CNIPA), a strong evidence collection system has been implemented in China starting this month, June.
Under the amended Patent Law of the People’s Republic of China and the related Notice, with respect to an infringement dispute of an important patent, utility mode or design, it is possible for an CNIPA official to investigate the evidence in the infringement field and to conduct an examination of parties involved and, thereby, to determine whether the relevant right is infringed and to stop an infringement act.
Since the newly amended Chinese Patent Law and Notice are applied to a foreign company entering China, Korean companies entering China or planning to enter there need to be aware of the new Chinese system.
Under the same system, an official to investigate the case can, by authority, investigate the field where an infringe act occurs and examine the parties involved. The parties involved cannot reject or interrupt the investigation or examination.
Therefore, it is possible to easily get infringement evidence owned by an infringer and it is also possible to easily reveal the concealment or damage of evidence materials.
Since the Chinese government’s investigation of an infringement dispute closes within 3 months in principle, anyone that is infringed to his/her right in China is expected to be rapidly recognized as being infringed and to be compensated for damages by using the relevant evidence, etc. in civil litigation.