Searching South Korean split applications

As the result of a major amendment to the South Korean Patent Act in early 2022, applicants can now file "split applications". Information on this new type of application has been available in EPO search tools such as Espacenet since 7 June.

But what exactly are split applications? And how can I access them in Espacenet?

Introduction to split applications

According to South Korean patent law, even if a single claim doesn't meet the requirements for patentability, applications are rejected in their entirety. Until recently, there was no way for the applicant to "rescue" the remaining claims still considered admissible.

The 2022 Patent Act amendment (see earlier PK News article) allows applicants to file a separate or "split" application for those claims that have not been the subject of a final decision of rejection. This applies to applications filed on or after 20 April 2022, and the applicant must also have initiated an appeal procedure against the decision of refusal before KIPO's Intellectual Property Trial and Appeal Board.  

At first glance, a split application looks very similar to a divisional filing. However, there are some differences.

  • A divisional filing relates to the substantive examination and can be submitted within three months of the decision to grant or the decision of refusal.
  • A split application relates to appeals and can be submitted within 30 days of the final decision of refusal at the end of the appeal proceedings.

So, a split application is another way applicants can file a new application for single claims if they have missed the deadline for a divisional application.

Split applications in EPO search tools

Information on split applications is now available in Espacenet.

In the Legal events view in Espacenet, there is a new event code that indicates a split application (Fig. 1). The Event description reads "Divisional application filed after appeal phase [split application]" and highlights the two most important features of split applications.

  • They relate to divisional applications.
  • They are filed at a different stage during the granting procedure, i.e. after the appeal phase.

Legal events view in Espacenet showing split application

Fig.1 Espacenet Legal events view

In the Espacenet Patent family view you can see the documents' family members. Select Simple family for an overview of all patent applications covering the same technical content. These applications are related to each other through priority claims. In this list, you'll find the original document from which the split application was separated, as well as a link to this document in Espacenet (Fig. 2). 

Patent family members in Espacenet, including the original document from which the split application was separated

Fig. 2: link to the original application in the Espacenet Simple family view

Keywords: split application, divisional filing, appeal, Korea