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Changes in the Korean Trademark and Design systems in 2024(News Letter No. 521)



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1. Changes in the Korean Trademark and Design systems in 2024

-KIPO held a presentation of 2024 trademark and design system trends (January 25, 2024).
-The presentation was to introduce the changing systems, such as a ‘trademark coexistence agreement’ and a ‘virtual service classification criteria’, etc.

On January 25, 2024, KIPO held a ‘presentation of 2024 trademark and design system trends’ to introduce the revised trademark and design systems.
The presentation was focused on the trademark system improvements including ▲the trademark coexistence agreement system and ▲the virtual service classification criteria, etc. and the design system improvements including ▲the expansion of application of the exception to lack of novelty and ▲the simplification of examination of priority claim, etc.
Under the trademark coexistence agreement system (effective on May 1, 2024), in the case that a holder of an earlier registered trademark right (application) agrees to register a trademark of a later filed application for the trademark which is identical or similar to his/her trademark, the registration of the trademark is possible. In the presentation, the relevant application requirements and cancellation reason(s) were explained in detail. Regarding the classification system for goods, the presentation introduced the reorganized classification to determine whether goods are similar and the service classification criteria in the virtual environment.

The presentation also focused on the major matters of the revised design protection act (effective on December 21, 2023) including the relaxation of requirements to claim the presumption of novelty of a design, and the changes in the relevant examination standards and the revised content of the Enforcement Rules thereof making a point of simplification of design drawing-related items, etc.

The director of the Trademark and Design Examination Bureau of KIPO said, “this presentation will be an opportunity to review the diverse policies of KIPO to strengthen the protection of trademarks and designs through the system improvement for the convenience of applicants and the securing of rights rapidly.” The director also asked for applicants’ interest and participation.

2. An IP information search service, KIPRIS, carries forward an overall reorganization for the first time in 12 years.

-KIPRIS recorded 120,000,000 search cases and 41,000,000 visits in 2023.
-KIPRIS plans to provide user friendly services, such as an IP integrated search function, a responsive web technology, etc.

On January 17, 2023 KIPO announced to carry forward the overall reorganization of the Korea Intellectual Property Rights Information Service (KIPRIS, www.kipris.or.kr), which is an IP information search service. Especially, since this reorganization is to be conduced 12 years after the large-scale improvement in 2012, significant changes are expected to occur.

KIPRIS is an IP information search service for Korean people to search and check, for free, IP information when they need the IP information to look for an invention idea or to need file an application. When using KIPRIS, it is possible to check various administrative processing information, such as the current status of an IP application, the examination progress status thereof, etc., including the IP (patent, trademark, design, etc.) information of 130,000,000 cases of 29 countries which KIPO has available.
As the utilization of IP information becomes important, the number of cases using KIPRIS has increased every year. The number of search cases increased by 3.7 times, from 33,000,000 (2012) to 120,000,000 (2023). The number of visit cases increased by 2.3 times, from 18,000,000 (2012) to 41,000,000 (2023).

Although KIPRIS had been partially complemented focusing on the addition of simple functions after the large-scale improvement in 2012, opinions were consistently raised that it was inconvenient to be used since the functions became more complex. Accordingly, in view of those opinions, KIPO plans to carry forward the reorganization of KIPRIS with the goal of ‘implementing user-friendly and intuitive services’, as follows:
An IP integrated search function will be provided to enable searching of domestic and international information at once. At present, to check domestic and overseas information in KIPRIS, one needs to conduct each search by right, that is, each of patent, trademark, design, etc. However, in the future, it is possible to fast check domestic and overseas IP information with just one search.

A responsive web technology will be applied in line with the increase in mobile terminal (smart phones, tablet PCs, etc.) users. When the relevant technology is introduced, since the website flexibly changes depending on the screen size or configuration of a connected device, a user can use it in an optimized environment no matter what device is used.
The screen configuration will be improved to reflect the latest design trend. Like an overseas IP search site which has been reorganized, since a user is able to check the search query, result and detailed information on one screen, the search convenience will be improved.

While carrying forward this reorganization, KIPO plans to investigate and analyze domestic and overseas IP search systems and listen to users’ inconveniences and opinions for improvement through a discussion with users and by surveying the user satisfaction, etc. In addition, KIPO will positively reflect by collecting opinions from actual users in various ways by conducting testing before release (beta test) to KIPRIS supporters (key reporters), etc. The reorganized KIPRIS service is scheduled to be presented in January, 2025.

3. KIPO establishes a new organization to strengthen a trademark examination in a new industrial area.

-From January 2023 KIPO fully operates a ‘new industry trademark examination division’ in charge of a convergence and new industry area.
-This is to actively respond an increase in the number of trademark applications in the high-tech industry area, such as AI, bigdata, etc.
-A Korean company’s competitiveness is expected to improve by a shortened period to obtain a trademark right, etc.

KIPO announced it would newly establish and operate the ‘new industry trademark examination division’ to support and rapidly establish a right of a trademark in an application filed in the convergence and new industry area.
The new industry trademark examination division will be in charge of examination in the convergence and new industry area which has a plurality of characteristics of goods, among trademark applications in the fields of automobiles (Category of goods, Class 07), semiconductors, information and communication (Class 09) and research and development industry (Class 42) which are Korea’s core industries.
The number of trademark applications related to major goods in the convergence and new industry area, which were filed in the last 3 years (2020~2023), significantly increased by an annual average of 48.8% in autonomous driving, 39% in AI, 17.7% in big data, etc.
However, previously since the examination of trademark applications was conducted based on traditional industries according to the international classification of goods, there was an indication that it did not proactively respond to the increase in the number of trademark applications in the high-tech convergence industry and new industry areas.

(unit: case)

2020 2021 2022 2023
Autonomous driving 92 101 229 303
Smart farm 52 70 76 78
Artificial intelligence (AI) 547 811 1,326 1,468
Big data 718 1,059 1,113 1,170

Therefore, KIPO has a plan to shorten the period for obtaining a trademark right of a Korean company by newly establishing the new industry trademark examination division, which is in charge of examination of an trademark application in the relevant area, and to increase consistency and quality of examination through active administration by strengthening on-site examination, etc.
The director of the Trademark Examination Policy Bureau of KIPO said, “the competitiveness of Korean companies is expected to increase by the dedicated examination of a trademark application in the new industrial area that has gradually become more sophisticated and specialized by advancing the period of obtaining a trademark right.” The director also added, “we will continue our efforts for rapid and accurate examination”.

4. The number of IP applications filed in 2023 increased including an increase in the number of patent applications related to semiconductors and secondary batteries, etc.

-The number of patent applications filed in 2023 was 243,000, recording the highest number of the applications ever.
-The number of all IP applications including patent, trademark and design applications increased by 0.03%.

KIPO analyzed the statistics of intellectual property applications (for patent, utility model, trademark and design) filed in 2023. As a result, the number of the IP applications totaled 557,000, showing that it turned into an upward trend compared to 2022.
By IP right, 243,000 patent applications were filed in 2023 showing an increase of 2.4% compared to 2022, 255,000 trademark applications were filed showing a decrease of 1.5%, and 55000 design applications were filed showing a decrease of 2.3%.

Thanks to the increase in the number of patent applications, the number of the total IP applications slightly increased (▲0.03). The number of the total IP applications was from 556,000 in 2022 (▼6.1) to 557,000 in 2023 (▲0.03).

Despite high interest rates due to global inflation, the number of Korean patent applications filed in 2023 was 243,000 with an increase of 2.4% compared to 2022, recording the highest number of the applications ever.
By applicant type, small and medium companies filed 65,380 applications (▲3.8), big companies filed 48,391 (▲7.6), and universities and public institutes filed 31,441 (▲9.2), whereas, foreigners filed 52,145 (▼3.2) and Korean individuals filed 33,522 (▼4.0).

By technology field, the number of the applications increased in the high-tech and major industrial fields which are: semiconductors (▲12.3), electrical machinery/energy including secondary batteries (▲11.4), digital communications (▲10.3), etc. However, the number of the applications in the electronic commerce (▼6.0), which is a technology related to non-face-to-face (digitalization) emerged in the coronavirus situation, and the audio imaging technology (▼6.6) decreased.

The increase in the number of the patent applications in the main industries of Koreans is considered as a result that Korean companies have done strategic intellectual property management to secure a supply chain in the high-tech industry that will be responsible for the Korean future, such as semiconductors, secondary batteries, etc., in the intensifying competition for global technological hegemony.

The number of trademark applications filed in 2023 was 255,000 decreasing by 1.5% compared to 2022. By applicant type, the number of trademark applications filed by Korean individuals increased as123,005 applications (▲5.0). However, the number of trademark applications filed by small and medium companies (77,710, ▼5.0), foreigners (13,873, ▼2.2), big companies (11,126, ▼12.1), and middle market companies (10,755, ▼7.0) decreased.
By classification of goods, the number of trademark applications increased in advertising business industry (▲4.4), restaurant industry (▲3.6), and coffee/bread/snack (▲5.3). This is considered as a result of small business owners and individuals filing trademark applications, along with starting a business.

The number of Korean design applications filed in 2023 was 55,336 decreasing by 2.3% compared to 2022. By applicant type, the number of design applications filed by big companies (3,712 applications, ▲2.1), middle market companies (2,726, ▲17.2), and forigners (5,400, ▲4.4) increased, whereas, the number of design applications filed by Korean individuals (22,566, ▼3.3) and small and medium companies (19,558, ▼5.9) decreased.

5. A preferential examination of cutting-edge technology is expanded to secondary batteries in the first half of this year.

-This year, the preferential examination system is reorganized … to support establishing the rights of cutting-edge technology and national strategic technology.
-An integrated (one stop) examination service through collective examination is provided to companies subject to regulatory special cases.

According to KIPO, in 2024 a framework to provide rapid examination has been prepared by newly reorganizing the subjects to be preferentially examined and expanding the subjects to request collective examination, etc.

Support for preferential examination is focused on a technology directly related to national competitiveness. Starting with semiconductors in 2022, followed by displays in 2023, the area of a preferential examination for cutting-edge technology will be expanded to secondary batteries in the first half of 2024. A patent application related to results of research and development tasks of a national strategic technology is to be added as a subject of a preferential examination. Accordingly, companies and research and development institutes, etc. in the cutting-edge technology and the national strategic technology fields are able to more easily request a preferential examination and the related application(s) can be rapidly examined within 2 months after a preferential examination is decided.
Previously, preferential examination of an application related to a green technology was possible only with a green technology-related support or certification from the state. However, the requirements will be relaxed so that when a green technology-related patent classification is received, the application will be subject to a preferential examination.
In addition, as the targets of a preferential examination, which are not necessary and urgent, are reorganized and the related laws are revised to focus support capability on securing advancement in the major national technologies, those application(s), etc., requesting a prior art search to a specialized agency are excepted from the subjects for a preferential examination.

An application requesting for regulatory suspension is added to the subject for requesting a collective examination. A collective examination is a system to collectively examine a plurality of applications which are related to a group of one product or the same business, at the time the applicant wants. Using this, the companies subject to regulatory special cases, which prepare a new business, are able to rapidly secure various IP rights (patent, trademark) at the time they want.
The director of the Patent Examination Policy Bureau of KIPO emphasized that supporting the rapid securing of patent rights is a top priority, to stay ahead of the competition for technological hegemony among major countries. The director also said, “the patent system to rapidly secure cutting-edge technology, a technology of regulatory special cases, etc. as rights. Is expected to be a great help to Korean companies this new year.”

6. KIPO controls counterfeit products during a Gangwon Winter Youth Olympics.

-The distribution of a counterfeit product of ‘Moongcho’ (which is a winter youth Olympic games mascot) is blocked by an online advance information collection (monitoring).

KIPO’s trademark special judicial police (hereinafter, referred to as the ‘trademark police’) announced to carry out a publicity (campaign) and conduct a crackdown on a sales site, to prevent the distribution of Olympic-related counterfeit products during 2024 Winter Youth Olympics in Gangwon (January 19~February 1, 2024).
As a part of the cooperation to prevent the distribution of counterfeit products which KIPO agreed with the 2024 Gangwon Winter Youth Olympic Games Organizing Committee (hereinafter, referred to as a ‘Committee’) at the request from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in July, 2023, this crackdown has included the activities of confirming a right, collecting (monitoring) online advance information, etc.
Since online sales of the Winter Youth Olympics-related licensed products must be conducted in only an online platform which established a partnership with the Committee, consumers need to be cautious about counterfeit products when purchasing Olympic related products, such as the products with the Olympic emblem, Moongcho mascot, etc.

The director of the Intellectual Property Protection & International Cooperation Bureau of KIPO said, “As 2024 Winter Youth Olympics in Gangwon is not only a game but also a festival where youth from all over the world gather and exchange cultures, we will spread a culture of respect for genuine products through this opportunity…. We will do our best to prevent the athletes and tourists who want to enjoy the Olympic games from being damaged by counterfeit products.”


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