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   Letter No.16 (2004-01-27)
Korean IP News,     Patyellow News  

Korean IP News

The Korean IPR System

1. Brief Introduction to Intellectual Property Rights

(1) Patent : An invention is protected upon the grant of a patent pursuant to the Patent Law. The invention must satisfy the basic criteria of industrial applicability, novelty and inventive step(non-obrionsness). And "invention must be a highly advanced creation of technical ideas utilizing rules of nature".

(2) Utility Model : A device which relate to the shape, structure of an article or a combination of articles is protected upon the registration of a utility model pursuant to the Utility Model Law. The device also must satisfy the same basic criteria of invention and be a creation of a technical idea utilizing the laws of nature.

(3) Design : The design protected by the Design Law is defined as "the shape, pattern, color or any combination thereof in the article which produces an aesthetic impression in the sense of sight." The term "article" is generally considered as a tangible, movable and independent thing.

(4) Trademark & Service mark : Trademarks and service marks(Trademark hereinafter) may be protected by the Trademark Law. A trademark under the Trademark Act is " a sign, a character, a figure, a three-dimentional shape or any combination thereof or those with colors which are used on goods or service by a person who produces, manufactures, processes, sells or certifies such goods or services in order to distinguish his goods or services from those of others".

(5) Copyright : Creative works in the literary, scientific or artistic domain are protected by the Copyright Law.

(6) New Forms of Intellectual Properties: Trade Secrets, Computer Program, Semiconductor Chip Layout Designs, Database, New Plant Varieties etc. In 1991, a statutory basis was provided for the protection of trade secrets, by an amendment to the Unfair Competition Prevention Act. In 1987, the Computer Program Protection Act was passed, providing sui generis protection for computer software. For the protection of semiconductor chip layout designs, the Government passed the Semiconductor Chip Layout Design Act in 1992, which became effective in September 1993. Databases and certain neighboring rights of copyrighted works have been protected by amendments to the Copyright Act in 1993 and 1995. In 1995, a special law, to become effective at the end of 1997, was passed to provide protection for new plant varieties.


2. International Treaties for the protection of Intellectual Property

The Republic of Korea have joined the following International Treaties for the protection of Intellectual Property:

(ⅰ) The Convention Establishing the World Intellectual Property Organization (1967)
(ⅱ) The Paris Convention for the Protection of Intellectual Property (1980)
(ⅲ) The Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) (1984)
(ⅳ) The Budapest Treaty on the International Recognition of the Deposit Microorganism for the Purpose of Patent Procedure (1988)
(ⅴ) The WTO Agreement on Trade related aspect of Intellectual Property Rights; TRIPs Agreement (1995)
(ⅵ) The Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works (1996)
(ⅶ) The Strasbourg Agreement Concerning the International Patent Classification (1998)
(ⅷ) The Nice Agreement Concerning the International Classification of Goods and Services for the Purposes of Registration of marks. (1998)
(ⅸ) The Trademark Law Treaty. (2002)
(ⅹ) Protocol Relating to the Madrid Agreement Concerning the International Registration of Marks (2003)

3. Foreign Applicants

A foreign applicant for the registration of intellectual property who has no domicile or residence in the Republic of Korea shall file an application through a representative who has a domicile or residence in the Republic of Korea. This is to facilitate communication between the applicant and the Korean Intellectual Property Office. Documents, submitted to KIPO must be written in Korean.



Brief history of Korean IPR System

Modern industrial property administration was first introduced in Korea in 1946 when the Ministry of Trade, Industry, and Energy established the Patent Bureau to deal with all matters relating patents, utility models, industrial designs and trademarks.

In 1977, the Bureau became independent and was renamed the Office of Patent Administration, headed by a Commissioner of vice ministerial rank.

The office adopted the previous name "Korean Industrial Property Office (KIPO)" in 1988 and changed its name to Korean Intellectual Property Office in June, 2000 to better reflect the office's overall functions.

Since the enforcement of the Patent Law in 1961, the Trademark Law in 1949, and the Design Law in 1961, KIPO has made concerted efforts to upgrade Korea's IPR system and has made many adjustments to successfully cope with the changing international trends and standards in the IPR field.

In accordance with the adoption of the DDA/TRIPs Agreement, KIPO is making the additional amendiments and enactments to fully equip the industrial property system.

Following Korea's joining WIPO in 1979, Korea became a party to the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property in 1980 and has abided by the principle of giving equal treatment to nationals and foreign nationals alike. In 1984, Korea acceded to the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT), and in 1988, KIPO became a party to the Budapest Treaty. In addition, in 1999, KIPO started the functions as the PCT International Search Authority (ISA) and International Preliminary Examining Authority (IPEA).

At present the annual number of Patent and Utility Model applications totals 145,752, Trademarks 108,077, Industrial Designs 37,681 (2002).

In addition the number of applications for inventions especially in high technology fields has gradually been increasing.



Electronic PCT Application System Launched

On January 1, 2004, KIPO launched an electronic filing service for international PCT (Patent Cooperation Treaty) applications via CD. PCT is a system that has the effect of filing of applications all over the world with a single application.

As for domestic applications, KIPO has been operating the electronic application system since 1999. In the case of the PCT application, however, KIPO could not implement it because WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organization) which administers the PCT, had not prepared the necessary groundwork. With the development and distribution of WIPO's software, PCT-SAFE, in December last year, KIPO was able to implement the PCT-electronic application system.

For the implementation of PCT-electronic applications, development of systems had to be made, in addition to the WIPO software, which could carry out a series of work, such as to receive electronically applied files, record the application on electronic documents after checking for errors and transmit them to WIPO. Those countries that are implementing PCT- electronic applications in January this year after preparation of all the necessary systems are only three: Korea, EPO (European Patent Office) and Finland.

It is also noteworthy that in order to encourage PCT-electronic applications, WIPO decided to reduce the application fee for filing electronic applications utilizing WIPO's PCT-SAFE by about 20% (250,000 won) of the 1,200,000 won. As KIPO is equipped with a system that can receive electronic applications simultaneously with WIPO, domestic applicants will receive the fee-reduction benefit from the initial implementation stage. Domestic PCT applications number about 3,000 a year, so annual savings of about 700 million won is expected with the implementation of the PCT-electronic application system.

KIPO is also developing a system to support international PCT applications via the Internet and plans to implement it in the same manner as for domestic application presently being filed via the Internet.


Patyellow News

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Book Introduction

Challenging the 21st Century with Intellectual Property Rights

- Ho-Hyun Nahm / January 15, 2004


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