FAQ - Korea

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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)

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

In Korea, for filings after 1 July 1999, patents run for up to 20 years from the date of filing, utility models for up to 10 years.

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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")

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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

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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.

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From filing to grant


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

Yes. If an applicant, legal entity or organisation does not have a residential or business address in Korea, they must appoint a professional representative registered before the patent office to represent them in patent-prosecution proceedings in Korea.

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


What language must I use for patent applications in Korea?

You must submit all documents in Korean. For PCT applications, you can file the document in either Korean or English. However, you must submit a Korean translation of the application within 31 months of the priority date.

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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.

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

You can get an early filing date by filing a provisional specification, followed within the next twelve months by a complete specification.

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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.

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Are Korean patents and utility models subject to substantive examination?

Yes, Korean patents are subject to a prior-art search and to substantive examination for novelty, inventive step and industrial applicability. From 1996 to 2006, utility models in Korea were registered without substantive examination, which was reintroduced on 1 October 2006.

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


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 filed after 1 October 2006, when the law changed, a request for substantive examination must be submitted within three years of the filing date.

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


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.

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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 15.4 months (2004: 21 months, 2006: 9.8 months).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Can a lapsed patent be restored in Korea?

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, if non-payment was due to reasons beyond your control, you have up to six more months as from the lapse date in which you can have the patent restored subject to payment of a penalty charge of three times the regular fee.

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


Can I request a patent-term extension in Korea?

Yes. In Korea, supplementary protection certificates (SPCs) are known as "patent term extensions". The term of patents in the pharmaceutical or agrochemical fields can be extended by up to five years if the invention cannot  be marketed until permission or registration under other laws and regulations has been obtained. Only one extension per patent is granted. Information about patent-term extensions is available from the English version of the Korea Intellectual Property Rights Service (KIPRIS ), a free database provided by the Korea Institute of Patent Information (KIPI).

An easy, step-by-step guide on how to find this information on the Korean version of KIPRIS is available from the EPO's FAQ Korea section.

Korea Intellectual Property Rights Service  (KIPRIS)

EPO - Searching databases - Korea

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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 granted on or after 1 July 2007, and to utility models registered on or after 30 June 2007.

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


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) system. Here you can search English abstracts of Korean patent documents, retrieve basic legal-status information in English and download the full texts of Korean patent documents. 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

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


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 information, abstract, representative drawing and legal-status information for Korean documents (mostly unexamined applications) dating back to 1979. They are published monthly, and the documents involved are about 3 to 6 months old.

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

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

The Korea Industrial Property Rights Information Service (KIPRIS) includes two Korean to English machine translation tools which produce translations of full Korean patent and utility model documents:

  • “Patent Translation”: a new free of charge tool which you can access 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 database within the KIPRIS search service

The  EPO in Vienna acts as a distributor for the K2E-PAT service, so you can order your machine translations also from us for a fee of EUR 26 per translated document.

Please see the links below for more information:

Retrieving free English machine translations via the “Patent Translate” service in KIPRIS

Ordering a K2E-PAT machine translation via the EPO

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


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

This is available 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 up to grant or refusal, with more than 60 of the most important events translated into English. On the "Virtual helpdesk Korea" section of the EPO 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)

Search guide "Retrieving detailed legal status information from KIPRIS"

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Where can I find official information about fees in Korea?

In the fee schedule on the KIPO website.

KIPO website

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

Currently, non-Korean nationals can order file inspection only via a Korean patent attorney who has to request a file wrapper from the KIPO in writing. The file wrapper is then sent to the agent in paper form, against payment of a fee.

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


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

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