Constant improvement of laws and systems for stronger and more effective protection of Intellectual Property rights
- Korean Intellectual Property Office (KIPO) has exerted constant efforts to ensure our nation's IP-related laws, systems, and policies that are in place or to be in place provide for agile, realistic and effective protection for the ideas, works and technologies as intellectual property.
- In July 2019, we amended the Patent Act to introduce a punitive treble damages into the domestic IP protection system, allowing compensation of up to three times the actual damages incurred by willful patent infringement to right holders. The calculation for the amount of compensation was also amended to better reflect the reality for legitimate right holders who now can claim damages against patent infringers’ product sales that exceed even their production capacity. Since then, these new rules have made its way to the other areas of IP laws, except for copyright, namely, the Trademark Act, the Design Protection Act, and the Unfair Competition Prevention and Trade Secret Protection Act.
- After that, Patent Act was amended once again, this time to change the way of treating acts of patent infringement – they now constitute an 'offense unpunishable over objection,' no longer an 'offense subject to complaint.' With this change, investigative authorities can proceed with their investigation in a patent infringement case at their discretion even if there is no complaint lodged by a victim, i.e. right holder, but can prosecute the case only with a clear expression of intent by the victim for punishment. When patent infringement was treated as an offense subject to complaint, infringers were only punished upon the lodged complaint by the victim, and this resulted from time to time in the victims not receiving legitimate criminal remedies as they missed the time limit for filing the complaint. This amendment came into force as of December 2020 and since June 2022, the same rule applies for any infringements of design rights or utility model rights.
- KIPO has also amended the Unfair Competition Prevention and Trade Secret Protection Act two times for the past two years. Since 2020, the Act prescribes that illegally acquiring and using data and using portraits and names of celebrities without their permission can be punished as they constitute the acts of unfair competition.
- Meanwhile, from September 2023, the same Act will provide for a prior user’s right, allowing a third party to continue its use of certain product marks or trademarks of others where such use began before those marks became famous and well-known.
- On top of such endeavors of improving governing laws, KIPO has also cared about developing and administering well-functioning policies. One most representative example was the announcement of the ‘First Unfair Competition Prevention and Trade Secret Protection Basic Plan' made in December 2021. This is a 5-year intragovernmental plan with the main objective of preventing and blocking the overseas leakage of our nation’s core technologies (i.e. trade secrets). To ensure a smooth implementation of it, KIPO has rolled out a yearly action plan since 2022 that define concrete tasks to be undertaken across the ministries.
Promotion of the use of alternative dispute resolution methods including mediation
- Settling IP disputes takes considerable cost, time, and resources especially for individuals and small and medium enterprises (SMEs) that often have difficulty securing resources.
- To offer an option to resolve disputes fast and amicably at lower cost through consultation and settlement out of court, KIPO runs a professional service of ‘Industrial Property Rights Dispute Mediation’ that are accessible to any parties to IP-related disputes, such as patents, trademarks, designs, utility models, trade secrets, acts of unfair competition, job inventions, etc.
- Once requested, dispute parties can settle their case within three months from the request filing, with the help of KIPO’s Industrial Property Rights Dispute Mediation Committee. As there is no fee charged for the use of this mediation service and the whole process is uncomplicated, the service is particularly attractive to individuals and SMEs with little experience in dispute settlement as they can easily proceed without a professional representative.
- KIPO will make continuous efforts to promote the availability and use of alternative dispute resolution to help our users handle IP disputes in a more effective and efficient way.
Enhancing IPR protection against counterfeits
Technology and Design Special Judicial Police Division
- In July 2021, KIPO's Technology and Design Special Judicial Police Division, as expanded in size and scope, has come into full operation with the mission of stronger crackdown on infringement of patents, designs and trade secrets.
- The Division consists of five teams that are specialized respectively in chemistry, machinery, electricity, design and trade secrets, and the investigators who are experts in the fields patent/design examination and trials, patent attorneys, lawyers, Ph.D holders, etc.
- With the growing size and capacity of this Technology Police Division, KIPO is increasingly able to quickly resolve technology infringement cases that are highly technical in nature and therefore can be difficult for other investigative agencies to carry out.
- In fact, from April 2019 to 2022, the Technology Police took on a total of 650 cases and produced the outcome of arresting 1,333 suspects for criminal charges.
- In September 2010, KIPO launched the first Special Judicial Police for Trademark (SJP) as a way of enhancing law enforcement on counterfeits. Offices have been established in the cities of Seoul, Busan, and Daejeon.
- All members of the Trademark Police are professionals with proficient knowledge in trademark and IP law.
- For the last 12 years, the Trademark Police has criminally booked more than 4,600 suspects for producing and/or selling counterfeit goods and seized more than 12 million counterfeit items in total.
- In addition, investigations are continuously and actively reinforced for counterfeit goods that have a direct impact on people's welfare, such as large-scale illegal manufacturing and distribution of counterfeits related to health and safety.
|Category||'10. ~ 18.||'19.||'20.||'21.||'22.||Total|
|No. of individuals
|No. of seized goods
Administrative Investigation into Unfair Competition
- Unfair competition refers to competitive behaviors that pursue economic benefits by taking advantage of others' achievements without paying a reasonable compensation for such use. Using a widely-known trademark or trade name in Korea that was created and owned by other persons constitutes an act of unfair competition.
- Since 2017, KIPO has been conducting administrative investigations into any acts of unfair competition as set forth under the Unfair Competition Prevention Act, filing and commercial exploitation of trademarks on national flags and national emblems, and unauthorized use of geographical indications. We also undertake activities to stop false indications of IP rights on products and services, under the Patent Act, Trademark Act, and Design Protection Act, and issue recommendation to the sellers to take corrective measures. Through these efforts, KIPO intends to protect various forms of intellectual property rights that may not be protected as patents, trademarks or designs under the governing laws.
Raising awareness on IP rights protection
- KIPO conducts various awareness-raising activities with the aim of helping the public and consumers better know about the importance of protecting IP rights and harm of counterfeit products.
- We offer information-sharing sessions to students, small business owners and enterprises on why IP rights need to be protected, how harmful counterfeit goods are to consumers, right holders and society, and how to discern and avoid deceptive and misleading sales practices.
- As part of online outreach campaigns, KIPO regularly posts the latest IP issues and major court rulings on our blog page and social media account. We also run public ads through outdoor signs and street furnitures like train stations and in transit areas like airports, buses and subways.
Improved systems to protect corporate trade secrets
- In June 2012, KIPO established the Trade Secret Protection Center (http://www.tradesecret.or.kr), a specialized and exclusive organization that provides useful information for protecting corporate trade secrets.
- We also produced a series of TV commercials to raise awareness and publicize the severity of trade secret leakage and provided field training for improved understanding of the trade secret protection system.
- Meanwhile, to alleviate the difficulty of authenticating trade secret ownership during infringement litigation, KIPO has been implementing the Trade Secret Certification Service since November 2010, which has received a total of 188,509 cases by the end of 2022. This service operates by taking the hash values from trade secret e-documents and combining them with authorized time values from trusted third-parties, thereby creating time stamps.
- Time stamps are then registered with the Korea Institute of Patent Information (KIPI) to prove the existence of original copies of trade secrets, as well as their initial dates of possession.
- In addition, we developed a standard management system to provide low-cost management with minimal staff requirements for companies struggling to effectively manage their trade secrets.
- KIPO has established IP-DESKs worldwide to protect and further promote IPRs to Korean companies doing business overseas. There are a total of 17 IP-DESKs in 11 countries since we started operating IP-DESKs in six regions including China, Thailand, and Vietnam in 2009.
- IP-DESKs provide Korean companies, which are activly operating in or in preparation of entering foreign markets, with consultations on IPR registration and protection as well as IPR dispute resolution. In addition, seminars are held to inform companies on how to prevent infringements.
- KIPO also organized seminars with IPR-related government officials of China, Thailand, and Vietnam to enhance their capabilities of enforcing protection against counterfeit goods. We will continue to make efforts to develop cooperative channels with foreign IPR-related organizations in order to protect the IPRs of Korean companies operating overseas.
Korea's IP-DESKs around the world
- Last updated 18 May 2023
- Intellectual Property Protection Policy Division
(Intellectual Property Dispute Settlement Division
Technology & Design Police Division
Trademark Police Division
Unfair Competition Investigation Division)