1. KIPO expands work from home to 50% to put all effort into prevention of Corona spread
KIPO announced expanding the telecommuting rate to 50% or more as a part of follow-up measures according to the upgrade to social distancing level 4 (July 27~August 8, 2021) in Daejeon City and to prevent Corona from spreading in public offices.
Previously 36% (628 staff based on as of the end of June, 2021) of all staff have worked from home and now due to the upgrade to level 4 of COVID-19 quarantine guidelines, KIPO decided to expand the telecommuting rate to 51.8% (928 staff) for the particular period.
At present, KIPO has built safe remote work environments not so as to cause any work gap even if all the staff works at home.
Telecommuters have been provided in advance with computer equipment, such as dedicated PCs, notebooks, monitors, etc. KIPO also makes every effort to strengthen security by using an encrypted computer network due to the nature of work handling undisclosed patent information when staff works from home.
The intellectual property offices in the major countries including US, Europe, Singapore, etc. have been trying to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and to form efficient work environments by operating all staff’s working from home, except for few essential staff, from the early stages of the COVID-19 outbreak.
Taking this opportunity to expand the telecommuting rate, KIPO also has a policy to preemptively respond to the COVID-19 crisis, by positively using a flexible working system, such as a staggered commuting system and an alternative work schedule, and the non-face-to-face work environments, such as video conferencing, etc.
2. Discussion has been accelerated on whether to allow a patent of an invention made by artificial intelligence (AI).
-A detailed road map will be prepared by September this year after collecting experts’ opinions.
-In the meantime, all major countries have rejected the allowance of patentability but recently the Australian Court decided to allow it.
KIPO formed an ‘expert council on AI invention (tentative name)’ to more deeply review a plan to allow a patentability of an invention made by AI and held the first conference online on August 12, 2021.
According to the recently rapid development of the AI technology, Professor Stephen Thaler, who is an US AI developer, asserted that his AI (Device for the Autonomous Bootstrapping of Unified Sentience, DABUS) developed by itself an invention that he did not know and filed patent applications in 16 countries around the world.
In this regard, the patent applications filed by Professor Thaler, in which AI was described as an inventor, were rejected in most countries including South Korea, US, GB, Europe, etc. for the reason that only a natural person can be an inventor under the current patent acts.
However, regarding the rejection from IP Australia, the Australian Federal Court made the first judgment recognizing AI as an inventor, through the regulations of the unique Australian Patent Act and the flexible interpretations. The flexible interpretations are as follows: ① There is no explicit rule stating that AI cannot be an inventor, ② there is no article excluding an inventor which is not a human, and ③ it is possible to interpret the term ‘inventor’ as inventing something like an elevator. The due date for filing an appeal was August 29, 2021 and at present IP Australia is reviewing whether or not to file an appeal.
The Companies and Intellectual Property Commission (CIPC) of Republic of South Africa granted a patent of the invention made by AI in last July through only a formality examination, without a review on whether AI can be an inventor. Unlikely the other countries, CIPC has an unusual system not conducting a substantive examination before a patent is registered.
Although various issues have been continuously discussed through KIPO digital IP forums, etc., since the issue on an AI inventor has rapidly risen as an international issue, the necessity has increased to more specifically review this issue focusing on whether to protect an invention made by AI as a patent.
Therefore, KIPO started the ‘expert council on AI invention’ to further discuss the issues on whether to recognize AI as an inventor and who has a ownership of an invention made by AI and how to protect the invention made by AI.
The ‘expert council on AI invention’ is divided into legislative, technical and industrial divisions to collect a diversity of opinions in different fields and classes and is formed of about 15 AI experts for each division.
The legislative division is formed of law experts including professors, judges, lawyers, etc. who are knowledgeable about an AI’s invention through paper presentation. This division plans to discuss about the legal issues on whether to recognize AI as an inventor and who a patent of an invention made by AI belongs to.
The technical division is formed of university and research experts who have been developing AI, and the industrial division is formed of the experts of companies commercializing AI. These divisions will discuss about the technical issues on AI’s technical level and whether AI can invent an invention by itself and the influences the protection of an invention made by AI has to Korean industries.
3. Find a second Tamiflu..How far the treatment of COVID-19 has been developed?
- A total of 302 patent applications related to the treatment of COVID-19 were filed and 13 patents were registered.
- Korean companies and research institutes have accelerated development with a national R&D project support.
The development of a medicine to rise as a game changer of COVID-19 has been noticed. Global pharmaceutical companies’ competitions to start clinical trials, etc. have become fierce for the development of oral medicines. Each country has paid close attention to the development of COVID-19 treatment medicines. Since Regkirona received a conditional approval as an intravenous injection as the first Korean treatment of COVID-19 in February 2021, pharmaceutical manufacturers and research institutes have speed up the development of Korean treatment medicines of COVID-19 and continued to file the relevant patent applications.
According to KIPO, the patent applications relating to the treatment of COVID-19 had been steadily filed from February 2020 which was the early stage of COVID-19 outbreak and a total of 302 applications were filed by June 2021.
At present, 13 patent applications for the antivirus effect against COVID-19 were filed, including one (1) patent granted as the treatment of COVID-19: “Regkirona” of Celltrion (regdanvimab, antibody treatment), two (2) patent applications being in clinical process: “DW2008S” of Dong Wha Pharmaceuticals Co, Ltd. (new medicine originated from Justicia procumbens), and one (1) patent application ending a clinical trial: “Levovir” of Bukwang Pharm. Co.,, Ltd. (clevudine, drug repositioning).
(1)Korean companies led 48.7% of patent applications relating to the treatment of COVID-19.
Upon reviewing the patent applications for the treatment of COVID-19 by applicants, 147 applications were filed by Korean companies including pharmaceutical companies, 66 by government agencies and contributed research institutes, 55 by universities, 30 by individuals, and 4 by foreigners.
The patent applications filed by Korean companies took a large part, 48.7%, of the total number of the relevant applications, followed by 21% by government agencies and institutes and 18% by universities.
Since a patent application filed by a foreign applicant may be filed with KIPO within 31 months after filing an international patent application, it is presumed that most of patent applications by foreign applicants have not yet entered the Korean national phase.
(2)Solutions were sought in diverse ways, such as new drug development and drug reposition, etc.
The treatment of COVID-19 in Korean patent applications can be divided into a compound, an antibody medicine and a natural product according to the active ingredient. 100 patent applications were filed for compounds, 69 for antibody medicines and 69 for natural products.
Pharmaceutical companies are considered as making various attempts including not only development of a new drug but drug repositioning using an existing medicine to develop the treatment within a short time.
The drug repositioning, as a strategy of searching for the possibility of treatment of another disease with respect to a drug which has been already used as a treatment, is regarded as having an advantage of significantly reducing cost and duration invested in developing a new drug.
(3)Based on the national R&D project, companies are expected to actively file the relevant patent applications.
The patent applications for the treatment of COVID-19 are considered as being continuously filed by government agencies and research institutes, universities and companies, based on the national R&D project.
The number of the patent applications based on the national R&E project was 78 (25.8%) of a total of 302. Generally, the percentage of the patent applications based on the national R&D project would be less than 15% of a total of the applications according to ‘2019 government R&D patentability and search•analysis report (December 2020)’.
The government has operated the ‘pan-government support committee for development of the treatment•vaccine of COVID-19’ since April 2020, totally supporting the development of the Korean treatment of COVID-19. Accordingly, filing the relevant patent applications is expected to be more active.
4. AI leads a fully autonomous driving era.
- The number of patent applications related to AI-based autonomous driving technology has rapidly increased.
The number of the Korean patent applications relating to AI technology in the autonomous driving field was insignificant as 15 or less every year but it was 31 in 2016 and 155 in 2020, sharply increasing by 50% or more, on an annual average, as of 2016.
The number of the autonomous driving technology-related applications filed for the last 5 years (2016~2020) increased from 2,860 to 4,082, showing an annual average increase of 9.3%. Among these applications, the rate of the applications for the AI-related technology also increased from less than 1% before 2016 to 5% in 2019.
This trend is considered as reflecting that the possibility of using the AI technology becomes higher in the autonomous driving field.
In addition, as the accidents of autonomous driving cars have followed, skepticism on fully autonomous driving has grown and thus the demand for the technology to increase safety and reliability of autonomous driving by AI has increased.
By detailed technology, the most applications, 285 (46%), were related to the infrastructure technology to support autonomous driving, such as dispatching, traffic control, etc., rather than the cognition, judgement and control technology which are the core technology of autonomous driving.
Since smart traffic systems are spreading and AI is easily combined, this field showed a rapid increase of 66%, on an annual average, over the last 5 years (2016~2020).
Regarding the core technology of autonomous driving, 171 applications (28%) were filed for the cognition technology, 113 (18%) for the judgement technology and 48 (8%) for the control technology. The most applications were related to the cognition technology. This is considered as resulting from the AI technology which has rapidly risen to accurately grasp the static environment information, such as lanes and traffic signals, etc. which are important for autonomous driving, and dynamic environment information, such as vehicles, pedestrians, etc.,
By the nationality of applicants, overwhelmingly many applications, 90%, were filed by Korean applicants, and only 10% were filed by foreign applicants.
Of the applications filed by Korean applicants, 23% (140 applications) were filed by big companies, 22% (136) by universities and research institutes, 5% (31) by mid-sized company, 30% (186) by small and medium companies, and 8% (49) by individuals.
Small and medium companies as well as big companies, universities and research institutes filed many applications. Recently, since the number of the applications filed by small and medium companies has been about half of the total number of the relevant applications, small and medium companies and venture businesses are considered as actively developing the technology in this field.
The companies which filed many applications relating to the total autonomous driving technology were Hyundai Motor, followed by Kia Motors. However, with respect to the AI-related applications, LG Electronics filed 66 applications, followed by Samsung Electronics (27), Hyundai Motor (18), Mobileye (14), Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute (9) and Mando (8), showing that the IT companies led the total applications in this field and the finished car and component companies closely followed.
As for the foreign applicants, global autonomous driving leading companies including Mobileye (14 applications), Baidu (5) and Waymo (5) filed the relevant applications. The number of the applications filed by foreign applicants for the past 5 years (2011~2015) was only 5 but the number thereof over the last 5 years (2016~2020) increased to 58. It appears that foreign companies have gradually entered the Korean market.
5. The number of partial design applications has increased by about 3 times for the last 10 years.
-The electronic and telecommunication industry including Samsung Electronics, LG Electronics, Google, etc. were the top companies filing many applications.
The interest of the applicants of design applications has increased in the partial design application system which KIPO introduced in 2001.
The partial design application system is to establish a right with respect to a major part which has a characteristic element of a design. When properly using the partial design application system, since there is an effect of filing a number of design applications for one design, this system is considered as a very strong right protection means.
The number of partial design applications increased by about 3 times, from 3,771 in 2011 to 10,107 in 2020, showing an annual average increase of 11.6%. Accordingly, the percentage that the number of partial design applications to the total of design applications expanded by more than 2 times, from 6.4% in 2011 to 14.1% in 2020.
Upon reviewing the partial design applications filed in 2020 by goods, the most partial design applications as 3,322 (32.9%) were filed for electric and telecommunication machinery goods including the digital electronic products, such as cellphones and wearable computers, etc., followed by 1,320 (13.1%) for household goods and 1,161 (11.5%) for clothing and personal goods, etc.
By companies filing many partial design application, Samsung Electronics filed 779 cases and LG Electronics filed 734 so that overwhelmingly many partial design applications were filed by these two companies, followed by CJ with 60 and Kolon with 54. As foreign corporations, Google filed 155, followed by Apple with 148, Nike with 140 and Magic Leap with 124.