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FAQ - Korea

If you cannot find your question here, please send it to us using the contact form.

For more specific legal questions relating to the Korean patent system, please contact International_legal_affairs@epo.org.


Questions

General information about IP in Korea

From filing to grant

After grant

Sources of information

Answers

General information about IP in Korea


What types of industrial property rights exist in Korea?

Korea has patents, utility models, designs and trade marks. They can all be registered at the Korean Intellectual Property Office (KIPO).

Korean Intellectual Property Office (KIPO)

If you require a more detailed answer, please send us your question using the contact form.


How long are the terms of protection of Korean patents and utility models?

For patents filed on or after 1 July 1996, the term is 20 years from the date of filing. Before July 1996, Korea made several law changes which affected the term of patents. For patents filed between 1 September 1990 and 30 June 1996, the term was 15 years from the date of publication of the examined application, but not longer than 20 years from the filing date.

For utility models filed on or after 1 July 1999, the term is 10 years from the date of filing. Before July 1999, Korea made several law changes also affecting the term of utility models. For utility models filed between 1 July 1996 and 30 June 1999, the term was 15 years from the filing date. For those filed between 1 September 1990 and 30 June 1996, it was 10 years from the date of publication of the examined application, but not longer than 15 years from the filing date.


What inventions cannot be patented in Korea?

Under the Korean Patent Act and KIPO's Requirements for Patentability, the following are not patentable in Korea:

  • any invention detrimental to public order, morality or public health
  • scientific discoveries
  • inventions not based on the law of nature (e.g. laws of economics, mathematical methods, etc.)
  • arbitrary arrangements (e.g. rules for playing games)
  • mental activities
  • aesthetic effects (e.g. paintings, carvings)
  • animal and plant varieties
  • methods for medical treatment of the human body

For more detailed information, please see the Korean Patent Act and KIPO's Requirements for Patentability:

Korean Patent Act (click on "Laws & Regulations")

KIPO's Requirements for Patentability (click on "Application Procedure for Patents and Utility Models, then on "Patent Examination Guidelines")

If you require a more detailed answer, please send us your question using the contact form.


Can computer software be patented in Korea?

Yes, but only if the software is recorded on a storage medium (CD-ROM, disc, etc.) and the combination of software and hardware as a whole represents an improvement over the prior art, has a technical result and constitutes a complete technical solution.

You can however get copyright protection for your software under the Computer Programs Protection Act, which applies for all computer programs except program languages, rules and algorithms.

Computer Programs Protection Act

If you require a more detailed answer, please send us your question using the contact form.


Is Korea a member of the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT)?

Yes, Korea joined the PCT on 10 August 1984. Since then, it has been possible to designate Korea in international patent applications filed via the PCT route.

If you require a more detailed answer, please send us your question using the contact form.


From filing to grant


As a foreign applicant, do I need to appoint a professional representative in Korea?

Yes. Natural or legal persons who do not have a residential or business address in Korea must appoint a professional representative to represent them in patent-prosecution proceedings there.


What language must I use for patent applications in Korea?

Since 1 January 2015, it has been possible to file applications in either Korean or English (before: only in Korean). If you file in English, you must submit a Korean translation within 14 months from the earliest priority date.

For PCT applications entering the national phase in Korea, you must submit a Korean translation within 31 months from the earliest priority date. Since 1 January 2015, it has been possible to request a one-month extension of the time limit for submitting the Korean translation.


Can I claim priority for an application filed in Korea?

Yes, the priority period is 12 months from the earliest priority claimed, as stipulated in the Paris Convention. Korea has been a member of the Paris Convention since 4 May 1980.

If you require a more detailed answer, please send us your question using the contact form.


What do I need to do in order to get an early filing date in Korea?

The Korean Patent Act includes several provisions which make the filing requirements more flexible. You can obtain an early filing date by

  • filing a provisional specification, followed by a complete specification within the next twelve months
  • filing an application in any form (e.g. research notes, thesis, etc.), followed by an application in the proper form, and fulfilling the formal requirements, within 14 months from the earliest priority date (permitted since 1 January 2015)
  • filing an application in English, followed by an application in Korean within 14 months from the earliest priority date (permitted since 1 January 2015).

Does Korea allow divisional applications?

Yes, in Korea, if your application comprises multiple inventions you may divide it into two or more applications. However, the scope of the descriptions and drawings of the divisional applications may not extend beyond that of those in the original application.

If you require a more detailed answer, please send us your question using the contact form.


Are Korean patents and utility models subject to substantive examination?

Yes, both patents and utility models are subject to a prior-art search and to substantive examination for novelty, inventive step and industrial applicability. Utility model applications filed between 1 July 1999 and 30 September 2006 were registered without substantive examination, which was abolished for utility models on 1 July 1999 and then re-introduced on 1 October 2006.


How soon after filing an application in Korea do I need to file a request for examination?

You should submit this request within five years of the date of filing or (for PCT applications) the international filing date. It is also possible to request accelerated examination on certain specific grounds. For utility model applications a request for substantive examination must be submitted within three years of the filing date.


Can I request that my application in Korea be published earlier than 18 months from the filing (or earliest priority) date?

Yes, it has been possible to do this since 1 July 1996. However, if you file a provisional application, earlier publication is possible only after submitting the complete set of claims.

If you require a more detailed answer, please send us your question using the contact form.


Can I present third-party observations on a Korean patent application?

Yes. Under the Korean Patent Act, any person may furnish the KIPO Commissioner with information and evidence that the invention concerned is not patentable under Article 62 of the Act. This provision applies only to applications since 1 October 2006.

If you require a more detailed answer, please send us your question using the contact form.


What is the time limit for replying to official actions in Korea?

Two months. The applicant may however request up to four one-month extensions, subject to payment of an additional fee each time. Furthermore, the KIPO Commissioner and the President of the Intellectual Property Tribunal (IPT) may (on request or ex officio) extend the period for submitting a request for a trial by up to 30 days, or even longer in exceptional cases such as applicants living in inaccessible areas.

If you require a more detailed answer, please send us your question using the contact form.


When is the first office action issued in Korea?

The average period of time which elapses between the request for examination and the first office action is currently 13.2 months (2010: 18.5 months; 2006: 9.8 months).


Can I apply for a patent and a utility model at the same time in Korea?

No, this is no longer possible. Prior to 1 October 2006, it was possible to file patent and utility-model applications in parallel in order to get early protection for an invention. The registered utility model then had to be withdrawn when the patent was granted. However, this system has now been abolished.

If you require a more detailed answer, please send us your question using the contact form.


Can Korean utility models be converted into patents?

Yes. With the abolition of dual filing in October 2006, Korea reintroduced the possibility to convert patent applications into utility model applications and vice versa.

If you require a more detailed answer, please send us your question using the contact form.


After grant


When do I have to pay annual fees in Korea?

In Korea the annual fees for the first three years have to be paid in a lump sum within three months as from the grant decision. Subsequent annual fees are payable yearly in advance. For patents granted up to June 1997 (pre-grant opposition system), annual fees are due for each year as from the date of publication of the examined document. For those granted from July 1997 onwards (post-grant opposition system), they are due on the anniversary of the first payment.

If you require a more detailed answer, please send us your question using the contact form.


Is there a grace period for paying annual fees in Korea?

Yes: six months as from the expiry date of the original payment period. If you make good the payment during this grace period, you have to pay an amount of up to twice the original fee.

If you require a more detailed answer, please send us your question using the contact form.


Can a lapsed patent be restored in Korea?

If you miss not only the annual-fee payment deadline but also the six-month grace period (see above), the patent lapses. However, under Korean patent law there are two different situations in which you may file a request for its restoration:

  • If non-payment was due to reasons beyond your control, you have up to twelve more months as from the lapse date (end of the grace period) to file your restoration request.
  • Even if there was no particular reason for the non-payment, you may file a request for restoration within three months as from the lapse date (end of the grace period), provided you pay penalty fees.

Can I request a patent-term extension in Korea?

Yes. Korean patent law provides for two kinds of extension to the regular patent term:

  • In the pharmaceutical and agrochemical fields, term extensions (comparable to supplementary protection certificates (SPCs) in Europe) may be granted on request if the patent cannot be marketed pending permission or registration under other laws or regulations. Only one extension per patent is granted, for a maximum period of five years.
  • If delays caused by the Korean Patent Office result in the examination procedure taking longer than four years from the filing date or three years from the examination request, whichever is later, the extra time may be added to the regular patent term on request. This kind of extension is available in all technical fields.

An easy, step-by-step guide on how to find information on patent-term extensions in the KIPRIS search system is available on the EPO website.

Korea Intellectual Property Rights Service  (KIPRIS)

EPO - Searching databases - Korea


How can I challenge a granted patent in Korea?

Since 1 July 2007, the only way to challenge a patent in Korea has been via invalidation proceedings. Post-grant opposition has been integrated into the invalidation procedure and applies to all patents and utility models granted on or after 1 July 2007.


Sources of information


Where can I search Korean patent information in English?

On the English web pages of the Korea Institute of Patent Information (KIPI), which offer access to the Korea Industrial Property Rights Information Services (KIPRIS) database. Here you can search English abstracts of Korean patent documents, retrieve comprehensive legal-status information in English, download the full texts of Korean patent documents and obtain English machine translations. Please also have a look at our step-by-step guides for searches in KIPRIS.

Korea Institute of Patent Information (KIPI)

EPO - Searching databases - Korea


Where can I find English abstracts of Korean patent documents?

You can retrieve English abstracts of Korean patent documents (Korean Patent Abstracts, KPA) on the website of the KIPRIS search service. The KPA include bibliographic data, abstracts, drawings and legal-status information for Korean documents (mostly unexamined applications) dating back to 1979. They are published monthly, with a time lag of about three to four months.

Search manual for KPA, produced by the Korea Institute for Patent Information (KIPI)


Where can I get an English machine translation of a Korean patent?

The Korean Patent Office (KIPO) offers two tools which provide full-text Korean-to-English machine translations of Korean patent and utility model documents:

  • “Patent Translation”: a free service available via the “Patent search” database in KIPRIS
  • “Korean to English Patent Translation” (K2E-PAT), a fee-based service which you can access via a separate website.

The EPO in Vienna acts as a distributor for the K2E-PAT service, so you can also order your machine translations from us (for prices and further details, see our translation services section)

Please refer to the links below for more information:

EPO - Searching in databases - Korea

Website of K2E-PAT service

Ordering a K2E-PAT machine translation via the EPO


Where can I find legal-status information on Korean patents in English?

You can access comprehensive legal-status data free of charge from the Korea Industrial Property Rights Information Service (KIPRIS). For each IP right, KIPRIS offers a chronological list of all legal-status events, including post-grant ones such as fee-payment data or litigation information. Most legal-status events are also shown with an English translation. Furthermore, you can access the Korean patent register in KIPRIS for information on patent lapses, term extensions, transfers of rights, etc.

On the “Searching in databases” section of the EPO’s Asian patent information website, we offer a search guide explaining step-by-step how to retrieve legal-status information from KIPRIS.

Korea Industrial Property Rights Information Service (KIPRIS)

EPO - Searching in databases - Korea


Where can I find official information about fees in Korea?

There is a fee schedule on the KIPO website.

KIPO website


Can I access the documents in the file of a Korean patent application?

There are two ways to access the Korean file wrapper online:

  • Via the “Global Dossier” service, which you can access in the EPO’s Espacenet and European Patent Register databases. This service is an initiative launched by the IP5 offices, providing access to file wrappers from Korea, Japan, China, the United States and the EPO. For Korean patents, all documents in the file wrapper are available both in Korean and in an English machine translation.
  • Via the One Portal Dossier (OPD) database provided by the Korean Patent Office. This database shows the file wrapper not only for the Korean document but also, in parallel, for all family members from IP5 offices. For Korean patents, the documents are currently available only in Korean. On the “Searching in databases” section of the EPO website, we offer a search guide explaining step-by-step how to retrieve file-wrapper information from the Korean OPD service.

Espacenet

EPO - Searching in databases - Korea


Where can I find information about patent agents in Korea?

The website of the Korean Patent Attorneys Association gives detailed information about the role of patent attorneys and the services they provide.

Korean Patent Attorneys Association

If you require a more detailed answer, please send us your question using the contact form.



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