Broad description of goods and services now accepted

South Korea
The Trademarks Examination Guidelines have been amended in order to accept broader descriptions of goods and services, in accordance with international standards. The amendment came into force on September 16 2008.
Although the Korean Intellectual Property Office (KIPO) adopted the Nice Classification in 1998, it had maintained strict specification requirements under which broad or vague descriptions (eg, class or subclass headings) were not accepted. Therefore, in order to avoid receiving an office action from KIPO, applicants had to list the goods and/or services covered by a trademark application on a detailed item-by-item basis. 

In order to comply with international standards, KIPO started accepting broad descriptions of goods and services on January 1 2007. First, KIPO started accepting broad descriptions of similar goods or services that fell within the same class. For instance, the following subclass headings have been accepted for registration:
  • "cosmetics" in Class 3;
  • "pharmaceutical preparations" in Class 5;
  • "stationery" in Class 16; and
  • “clothing for exclusive use in sports”, “suits and coats” and “underwear” in Class 25.
However, certain subclass or class headings were rejected where the relevant goods or services fell under different 'similarity codes'. Similarity codes divide goods and services into sub-categories which are deemed to be similar by KIPO. 
As of September 16 2008, KIPO is accepting broad descriptions of goods or services in the same class, even if the goods or services at issue are not considered to be similar according to KIPO's practice. For example, under the new system, KIPO will accept the class heading "clothing" (which may cover "clothing for exclusive use in sports", as well as "suits and coats" and "underwear"), even though "clothing for exclusive use in sports" is not considered to be similar to "general clothing items" under the similarity codes. 
However, all goods and services covered by the description must fall within the same class. Therefore, “chemical preparations” covering both chemical preparations for industrial purposes in Class 1 and chemical preparations for medical purposes in Class 5 would not be accepted.
The new system will apply to all applications examined after the entry into force of the amendment, regardless of the application date.
Sung-Nam Kim and Gavin Healy, Kim & Chang, Seoul

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