1. Examination standards of a design application has been revised to be in effect beginning January 1, 2017
The Korean Intellectual Property Office (KIPO) announced to operate the revised examination standards of a design application from January 1, 2017, with the main contents of expanding the range of acknowledging the creativity in examining a design application and expanding the subjects to be protected in a design application.
Previously, in a case where a design included a shape or form that everyone knows, like a geometrical figure such as a hexahedron or cylinder, etc., an examiner might consider that such a design could be easily created and could reject a design application for registration on the reason of lacking creativity, without presenting any evidence.
Accordingly, a registration of a minimalism design minimizing decoration and seeking simplicity was tended to be rejected for the reason that it was a simple and common design regardless of the areas of goods.
However, under this revision, if it is clear that a particular design is not related to a creative method or expression method which is common in the relevant industrial field, an examiner must present evidence material(s) to support a rejection to make it more objective and careful to decide whether the design could be easily created or not.
Furthermore, previously, in the case where two or more portions are separately expressed in one drawing, only if each portion performs one function as a whole, it was recognized as one design. However, under the revision, if each portion performs one function as a part not as a whole, it is approved as one design.
2. Trial fast track has become the rapid means to settle a patent dispute
The trial fast track system (rapid handling within 3 months) which has been in operation since November 2016 by the Korea Intellectual Property Trial and Appeal Board (KIPTAB) is successively established and contributed to the rapid settlement of a patent dispute.
According to KIPTAB, the number of the trial fast track requesting cases was 429 (monthly 33 cases) from November 2015 to November 2016. Under the trial fast track process, a trial case was closed in about 85 days. This reduced the trial period by about 6 months from the usual trial process period of about 9 months and greatly reduces the dispute cost and time consumption of a small or medium company.
As a result of analyzing the fast track cases, about 91% of the total cases were those cases pending in courts or booked with police or prosecution authorities. Also, about 77% thereof were requested for the trials of individuals or small/medium companies, showing that the fast track system was of great help to small/medium companies.
3. A series of meetings of the commissioners of KIPO, SIPO and JPO
KIPO held series of talks by the commissioners of KIPO and the Japanese Patent Office (JPO), KIPO and the State Intellectual Property Office (SIPO) of the People’s Republic of China, and KIPO, SIPO and JPO from December 7 to 9, 2016 in Japan, to strengthen the intra-cooperation in the patent area.
On December 7, 2016, the commissioners’ meeting of KIPO and JPO was held, to discuss about strengthening examiner exchange and cooperation for joint prior art searches and expanding patent data exchange and dissemination of patent data to the public, etc. Further, a cooperation memorandum was concluded regarding ‘expansion of subjects to exchange the list of geographical indication and local collective marks. The exchanged list is used by the two countries as referential materials for their geographical indication protection.
The commissioners of KIPO, SIPO and JPO approved the cooperation results in each field of patent, design and information and discussed the next year cooperation direction. They also discussed about plans to arrange the existing cooperation systems to improve the efficiency of cooperation among the three countries.
In the commissioner’s meeting of KIPO and SIPO, the agreement was made to carry forward the collaborative search pilot (CSP) between the Republic of Korea and China.
Under the CSP system, KIPO and SIPO share the prior art search information of each country regarding the same patent application filed with KIPO and SIPO and faster examine the relevant application in comparison with other applications. Once the system is fully operated, it results in the effects of improving the international consistency of examination results and making it possible for a company to secure an earlier patent right.
4. Korean and foreign IP information search services has been expansively provided
According to KIPO, the foreign patent information of eight countries has been additionally provided and the real-time search service of Korean trademark examination information has started through the Korea Intellectual Property Rights Information Service (KIPRIS) (www.kipris.or.kr) which provides an IP information search service since December 15, 2016.
KIPRIS has provided the foreign IP information of eighteen countries including the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), SIPO, JPO and European Patent Office (EPO) which are the major advanced patent offices.
As the eight countries including Sweden, Columbia, etc. were newly added from December 15, 2016, the IP information regarding about 78,100,000 cases of a total of 26 countries are available for searching.
The expansion in the search range of foreign IP information is expected to be helpful for Korean companies in developing new markets by increasing accessibility to IP information when they advance into foreign markets.