KIPO issues new plan for improving quality of examinations

South Korea

The Korean Intellectual Property Office (KIPO) has announced a plan for improving the quality of trademark and design examinations, in order to support the marketing efforts of businesses and enhance the competitiveness of companies through innovative brand and design creation.

The main points of this new policy are as follows:

  • KIPO plans to ease its strict examination standards regarding the distinctiveness of trademarks and move towards a more positive review, so that companies can secure protection more easily for the marks that they use or hope to use in the future. KIPO will also lower the standard for recognising acquired distinctiveness.
  • In line with its plans to promote new brands and designs, KIPO will also take steps to prevent the registration of imitation marks. For example, a trademark application filed by an employee during the brand creation process may be rejected for bad-faith intent, and KIPO examiners may be encouraged to deny the registration of a mark on an ex officio basis if it is an imitation of a famous character, design or trademark.
  • In order to stop parties from registering marks without an intent to use and then demanding damages or royalties from third parties, KIPO will work on revising the Trademark Act to prohibit explicitly claims for damages based on trademark registrations that are not in use.
  • For the convenience of applicants, KIPO will implement a system to accept letters of consent, so that similar marks can be registered if the prior owners agree.
  • To ease the applicant's burden in the prosecution process, the scope of amendments will be expanded. KIPO will not only amend obvious typographical errors ex officio, but will also allow more applicants to amend their trademark specimens or design drawings.

Based on these key measures, KIPO hopes to overhaul its laws and examination guidelines for trademarks and designs by 2014. It also plans to provide the fastest examinations in the world by 2017 by shortening the timeframe for review of trademarks and designs by three months and five months, respectively.

Nayoung Kim and Min Kyoung Jee, Kim & Chang, Seoul

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