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   Letter No.11 (2003-8-25)

Patent News,   Search News,   Patyellow News  

Patent News

Newly Acclaimed IP Rights in KOREA (Ⅰ)

1. Semiconductor Integrated Circuits Layout Design Law (SICLD Law)

In general, production of semiconductor integrated circuits is in the order of "system design for specific function → circuit design based on the idea of functionality → materialization of electric circuit design → spatial layout design of circuits → production process → testing", but the layout design of circuits are not usually protected under the patent law. However, "layout design right" has been created to complete the protection of the whole system process.

Korea has been protecting such layout designs under the SICLD Law since the August of 1993. The protection under SICLD Law falls in between patent and copyright law and is often refer to as "Industrial Copyright" in other countries. In looking at the nature of the layout design right, it is similar to a copyright because the first protection is subjected to drawings and registration can be made without any substantive examination. Furthermore, it also is similar to a patent because creation, purpose, exercise of rights and termination are all based on the principles of the patent law where such registration is necessary in order to create the right. Some moderate changes have been made, such as not allowing more then 10 years of protection, due to a very short life-cycle of the semiconductor products.

In terms of protection under the layout design right, the first protection is subjected to drawings, but in reality, any final goods produced based on the layout design, such as semiconductor, semiconductor built in computers and communication tools are all subject to protection which resembles the nature of the patent rights. However, it is hard to define layout design right as part of patent right because elements to create its rights under patent law, such as novelty and inventive step can't be examined in layout designs. Furthermore, because of the reasons stated above, it is also differentiated from the copyrights where it only protects the drawings.

2. Biotechnology

From the early part of 80's, many industries put special emphasis in acquiring market share of biotechnology as there was a boom in genetic engineering research in Korea. This was apparent from observing the number of companies registered to the society of genetic engineering, which amounted to be more than twenty. As a result of such active participation, already few drugs are independently developed and are being marketed despite the fact that it usually takes many years for biotechnology research to yield marketable products.

Since 1997, lead by development of insulin, many biotechnology-related drugs including recently developed drugs such as EPO (Erythropoietin) have been introduced in Korea, and drugs such as interferon-alpha, interferon-beta, interferon-gamma, hepatitis-B vaccines, and others which have been independently produced resulted in a surge of biotechnology-related drugs in Korea.

From early on, methods of use of micro-organism were patentable in Korea. However, with the revision of the Patent Law in July of 1997 which further allowed patenting of micro-organism itself and Korea's acceding to the Budapest Treaty in 1990, the protection of micro-organism has reached global standard.

3. Plant Patents

The Republic of Korea became the 50th contracting party to UPOV Convention after the deposit of its instrument of accession to the 1991 Act on December 7, 2001. The Korean Government enacted the Seed Industry Law on December 6, 1995, and introduced the Plant Variety Protection System on December 31, 1977. Currently, 113 plant genera and species are entitled to Plant Variety Protection.

According to Article 31 of the Patent Law, any person who invents a variety of plant which reproduces itself asexually may obtain a plant patent irrespective to their species. Also, the Seed Industry Law protects crops such as food crops, vegetable crops, ornamental crops, forage crops, and industrial & medicinal crops whether they are sexually or asexually produced. Therefore, a dual protection can be afforded for plants that are asexually produced. As of July 1, 2002, 113 types of crops are subject to protection under the Seed Industry Law.

In addition, it should be noted that the Patent Law also protects methods of processing, breeding, improving, and cultivating plants, whereas the Seed Industry Law does not. As a result, the area of DNA manipulation which recently been heavily researched can only be protected under the Patent Law.

The method of protection under the Seed Industry Act is quite similar to the method of protection under the Patent Law as they both require examination of written applications. However, the Seed Industry Act further requires field test or examination of the actual breeding ground.

The Seed Industry Act requires that subject satisfies novelty, distinctness, uniformity, stability, and unique name of the subject to be protected. As for the novelty requirement, it requires that the subject to be protected is not sold or harvested in Korea within one year or 4 year (6 years in case of trees or fruit trees) in case of foreign country prior to the filing of the application in Korea.


4. Electronic Commerce related technology

(1) What is Electronic Commerce?

As Internet technology improves and supply of computers increase, a traditional marketplace, where demand and supply physically meet, have been replaced by cyber-marketplace which exists on the World Wide Web. Electronic Commerce (e-commerce) can be defined as "a newly created commercial transaction that are electronically processed based on Internet networking and digitalization which promotes goods and services, stores and displays catalogs, provides estimate of costs, performs and confirms agreements, processes internal ordering and provides customer services between customers and businesses."

(2) Protection of e-commerce related technology

1) Classification of Internet based technology

Although classification of Internet based technology on the operation of e-commerce system is still open to discussion, it is generally classified as follows;

Classification of Internet based technology
Communication Technology
Technology in relation to protocol, encryption, certification, compression and error correction which is combined with hardware like modem.
Website Design
Technology in relation to website designs including business model, screen layout and interactive information for users
User-Client Program
Connecting software, browser and user-client program including e-mail programs
Server Design
Server design related technology including arrangement and administration of server data structure and its management

2) Protection in Korea
Korean Intellectual Property Office has its own independent examination guide in order to appropriate patents on e-commerce related technology which has been improved in number of occasions. Furthermore, Patent Law Enforcement Ordinance of 2001, as amended, gives "e-commerce related inventions" a priority in examination applications.
In Korea, patent applications of e-commerce technology started to increase in 95' when the Internet boom began, but became stagnant from the 98' recession which is better known as the "IMF crisis."


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Application Intro.

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We remain abreast of the rapidly changing legal environments through the close contact with government agencies, currently available information services, and foreign associates. We are always ready to provide our clients with high quality professional services.



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