"20+" and still alive?

A number of patent offices around the world offer extensions of the patent term beyond the regular 20-year limit. There are two types of term extension:

  • Term extensions for pharmaceutical and agrochemical patents to compensate for the length of time needed to carry out clinical tests and approval procedures, during which the patent owner cannot work the invention.
  • Term extensions for patents to compensate for delays in the grant procedure. These are known as "patent term adjustments" (PTAs) and may be granted for patents in any technical field.

Both types of extensions are relevant not only for patent owners but also for third parties, for example in freedom-to-operate searches. If a competitor’s patent is blocking the launch of your new product, a granted PTA would further delay your market entry or otherwise cause a serious risk of patent infringement.

In this short series of articles we will have a closer look at patent term adjustments in major jurisdictions in Asia, starting with the Republic of Korea (South Korea – afterwards referred to only as “Korea”). After a brief introduction to general features of the Korean PTA system we will explain how you can find the relevant information in both Espacenet and the KIPRIS search service.

Term adjustments in Korea: overview

In March 2012, Korea became one of the first countries in Asia to implement an adjustment system. In Korea, a PTA may be granted in cases where the examination takes longer than either four years from filing or three years from the examination request (whichever ends later). The additional period may be added by way of "compensation" to the regular term of 20 years from filing. It will be reduced by those delays which are attributable to the applicant, such as the time taken to respond to office actions.

PTAs are not granted automatically. They must be formally requested by the applicant. This formal request must be filed within three months of the grant of the patent.

Searching data on Korean term adjustments

You can find basic information on Korean PTAs – currently only requests for adjustment – in the Legal Events section of Espacenet (Fig. 1).

Fig. 1: Legal event data in Espacenet

Further data, including the grant of the PTA, the exact period and the adjusted expiry date, can be found in the Korean Patent Office’s KIPRIS search system.

Fig. 2: Legal event data in KIPRIS

In the English interface of KIPRIS, you can access legal event data by clicking the Administrative tab (1). This example shows both a request for term adjustment dated 4 September 2019, as well as the grant of the request on 4 December 2020. Both events are displayed in Korean only. Tip: copy and paste the Korean text to an online machine translation tool to get a translation into another language.

Further information is only available on the Korean-language interface of KIPRIS. Click the Relevant details in Kor tab (2) just above the title to go straight to the same document on the Korean interface.

Fig. 3: Detailed information on patent term adjustments in the Korean language version of KIPRIS.

 Click the 기타공고 ("Other publications") tab. This section includes detailed information on the granted term adjustment, including the additional period (347 days (1)) and the adjusted expiry date (13 July 2034 (2)).

For more information on how to search in KIPRIS, see the EPO’s collection of step-by-step guides to Searching in databases in Korea, which includes a guide to retrieving data on all types of patent term extensions.

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