South Korea

South Korea scored first in Asia-Pacific for the country with the best customs environment in the 2018 Global Illicit Trade Environment Index. This trend is expected to continue, as the Korean Intellectual Property Office (KIPO) has launched the women-led Home Monitoring Group, an online anti-counterfeiting taskforce that achieved stellar results in its first month with 18,105 cases. The commissioners of the Chinese, Japanese and South Korean IP offices have also agreed to expand their trilateral cooperation to include trademarks, clearly indicating a growing awareness and investment in intellectual property. Closer to home, KIPO has reported a significant increase in non-use cancellation actions filed domestically and is amending trademark examination guidelines to include the stricter examination of marks corresponding to famous characters and character names. On the topic of market trends, gaming has turned out to be a particularly busy sector for those strategising trademark portfolios and defending IP rights. Meanwhile, in the K-pop industry, superstars T-ara successfully concluded a year-long trademark dispute with former music agency MBK Entertainment.

Firms: enforcement and litigation

  • Bae, Kim & Lee LLC
  • Cho & Partners 
  • Kim & Chang
  • Lee & Ko
  • Yulchon LLC
  • Yoon & Yang IP LLC
  • DARAE LAW & IP Group
  • Lee International IP & Law Group

Firms: prosecution and strategy

  • FirstLaw PC
  • Kim & Chang
  • YP Lee Mock & Partners
  • Bae, Kim & Lee LLC
  • Cho & Partners 
  • Lee International IP & Law Group
  • YOU ME Patent & Law Firm
  • DAE-A International IP & Law Firm
  • DARAE LAW & IP Group
  • HanYang International
  • KBK & Associates
  • Lee & Ko
  • Muhann Patent & Law Firm
  • Yoon & Yang IP LLC

Bae, Kim & Lee LLC

With an enviable list of top global clients and diverse contentious cases in South Korea and the United States, Bae, Kim & Lee LLC emerges in the gold tier of the enforcement and litigation table this year. The full-service law firm handles the whole spectrum of trademark matters without breaking a sweat, with multinationals such as Lenzing AG, Swarovski Korea and SK Telecom entrusting it with their trademark portfolios. In the contentious space, the side has been inundated with disputes on behalf of local and domestic clients alike, including defending Samsung Electronics in a trademark infringement case as it details an enforcement strategy for Kakao Co. Following almost three decades on the bench, Taeck Soo Kwon has reviewed an immense volume of IP cases and amassed vast experience in the field; the head of the IP practice group was the first president of the Korean Intellectual Property Lawyers Association. Although having been trained as a litigator, Jihyun Kim is equally adept at handling transactional matters.

Cho & Partners 

“Client focused, efficient, reliable and cost-effective” – these epithets sum up gold-rated Cho & Partners succinctly. “The service is exceptional; we receive an immediate reply even if it is to let us know it has received the request and will get back to us shortly. If it is an urgent matter, it is always handled in the same day. Furthermore, advice is easily understood and there is no language barrier.” A blend of trademark attorneys and attorneys at law attend to IP matters from cradle to grave for the most sophisticated, multinationals. Not only do they come up with innovate enforcement programmes tailored to their clients’ needs, they are also paving the way with legal precedents. As recognition for their prowess in the IP space, Louis Vuitton Malletier recently transferred all its IP enforcement and customs matters to the IP boutique, which is also engaged in a long-term strategy for Hasbro’s TRANSFORMERS mark. Renowned and respected throughout the local IP industry, Tae-Yeon Cho is “a great and powerful writer, particularly skilled in utilising his in-depth knowledge in trademarks for legal drafting”. “His knowledge and analytical skills in this field are the best in Korea.” Meanwhile, a WIPO panelist for domain name disputes, the “personable” Ik-Hyun Seo is “very experienced and provides valuable strategic input”.

DAE-A International IP & Law Firm

Upcoming and fast-growing DAE-A International IP & Law Firm makes its first appearance in the WTR 1000 this year. With a team of trademark and ex-KIPO attorneys, the IP boutique caters primarily to domestic clients. Interested parties should seek out So-Jung Lee for more information.

DARAE LAW & IP Group

Specialist law firm Darae Law & IP Group not only “possesses a lot of experience in intellectual property, it also deals with such cases professionally and applies know-how of case proceedings to produce good results, at a reasonable cost”. Founded by former patent court judges and examiners, the one-stop shop caters to a primarily domestic clientele on a range of IP matters but shines brightest on the contentious front. By blending legal and technical expertise, the team provides solutions from both perspectives, as well as advice on technical transfers and licence agreements. With over two decades of experience in intellectual property under her belt, Keumho Lee leads the prosecution team with a firm hand and counsels largely on IP litigation and enforcement. After working in-house at E-land Group and training on Chinese IP law at both Peking University Law School and a Chinese patent firm, Young Sun Chung now focuses on South Korean companies looking to enter the Chinese market. “She delivers satisfactory results by assessing cases accurately and offering specific guidance.” Lee and Chung were recently successful in defending THURINGEN Korea against VT Cosmetics in multiple trademark disputes.

FirstLaw PC

Gold-rated IP boutique FirstLaw PC is adept at prosecuting trademarks, protecting its clients’ IP rights and carrying out border enforcement measures. An enviable list of global corporations looks to the side for multi-jurisdictional trademark filing and registration advice, with a growing number of domestic businesses joining the portfolio, including one famous entertainment company. Within the team of 12, young associates often continue their education at the firm’s behest in order to maintain a high level of expertise and live up to the FirstLaw reputation. Jeong Won Lee remains at the top of the prosecution and strategy table, not only by virtue of her fantastic reputation in South Korea, but also due to stellar feedback. “She has proven herself time and time again to be an expert in her field, and we are completely confident relying on her advice. The service we have received from her has consistently been of the very highest level and I rank her among the very top IP attorneys we use around the world.” Throughout, Jeong Won is described as thoughtful, responsive and thorough. “The fact that I don’t have a specific example of where she saved the day may actually be the best recommendation of all; she kept us from having emergencies!”

HanYang International

After almost 25 years of prosecuting trademarks for a variety of clients, HanYang International Patent and Law Firm debuts in the WTR 1000 this year. Thanks to a solid team of professionals with diverse in-house experience, the IP boutique ensures that the trademark rights of domestic and foreign companies are properly secured. Under the watchful eye of founder James Yeon-Soo Kim, the group offers “excellent quality with a client focus”.

KBK & Associates

With a gimlet eye on trademark and design prosecution for top-dollar domestic corporations, KBK & Associates makes its sophomore appearance in the WTR 1000. Thanks to its years of experience, the team of 15 – including seven patent attorneys and one Japanese-qualified attorney – is adept at assisting the likes of LG Electronics in its overseas trademark and design filing activities. Fluent in three languages, In-Gyung Baek is a well-respected, “very approachable, experienced and helpful” practitioner, who has “practised for a long time in the IP prosecution, trademark and design area”.

Kim & Chang

Sitting comfortably at the apex of both the prosecution and enforcement tables, Kim & Chang is the trusted partner of an array of blue-chip companies from all over the world. Its reputation precedes it and glowing references from long-term clients and foreign associates attest to its top position in the South Korean trademark industry. “Kim & Chang is one of the most consistently reliable and successful trademark teams in the world,” commends one happy client. “All the attorneys provide a high level of service without exception.” “Held in high regard by the Korean customs and other important officials, the firm is knowledgeable about the business and industry.” Not only does the 150-strong team cover the full spectrum of trademark services, “its advice ties into the overall brand protection programme”. The general law firm files the highest number of trademarks domestically by a long shot and protects clients’ IP rights fervently and regularly before the Intellectual Property Trial and Appeal Board (IPTAB) and the Supreme Court. Captain of the IP practice Jay (Young-June) Yang provides exceptional service. “It would be hard-pressed to find a more reliable counsel than Jay – his expertise and understanding of all sectors, IP law and Korea’s market realities are second to none. He is highly attentive and consistently provides practical advice in a timely manner. His experience and body of work speak for themselves, and his dedication and consistency to the craft are unequaled in the industry and truly stand out.” Gold-rated IP strategist Sung-Nam Kim has a wealth of experience in trademark matters, which is emphasised by her glowing recommendations. “Of all the counsels I work with around the globe, I say with the greatest sincerity that she is one of my most trusted partners. She is invaluable in handling numerous complicated, sensitive and cross-functional IP matters, especially since she does not shy away from tackling difficult or complex problems but tackles them with creativity and determination. Her approach to solving problems is thoughtful, yet always with a rare mix of practical and business-minded sense. She is often involved in groundbreaking cases, so she has a unique knowledge and understanding of the law and its developments.” Alongside Kim, Canadian lawyer Alexandra Bélec ably prosecutes trademarks for global brands. Joining the prosecution and strategy table for the first time this year, Alex Hyon Cho has achieved “unparalleled positive results” for his clients. “Alex constantly exceeds expectations and I have come to expect the highest level of professionalism from him. The extraordinary quality of his research and assessment of our IP challenges in Korea are reflected in detailed and thoughtful communications, which consistently present the issues, explain the challenges and lay out all possible options for action.” On the enforcement front, anti-counterfeiting expert Ann Nam-Yeon Kwon “has more than 20 years of experience in the trademark field and is often sought out for her excellent client care”. For this reason, she is a favourite among luxury brand owners and recently defended Price Costco International against a third-party trademark application.

Lee & Ko

Standing shoulders above its peers, Lee & Ko is propelled to the summit of the enforcement and litigation table this year on the back of its success in various high-profile trademark disputes and profusive praise from clients and foreign associates alike. “The trademark team reflects a deep bench of legal talent indicative of the group’s overall status as one of the leading law firms in Korea. They do not just dabble in trademark law but are specialists across the full spectrum from prosecution to litigation, which includes former members of the judiciary. They provide very strategic and creative advice through outside-the-box thinking.” “With a high standard of abilities and passion, they make accurate decisions and suggest favourable solutions from the client’s perspective. Despite being the second largest law firm in Korea, the outfit’s fees are described as reasonable – an important consideration. US companies in particular enjoy working with the team, which saw the addition of two US attorneys in 2018. This ability to “explain local legal concepts and practices comparatively with US equivalents” makes it little wonder that some of the largest names in fashion, aviation, medical devices and entertainment have entrusted the full-service outfit with their most important strategic IP portfolio management and enforcement matters, as well as multi-jurisdictional matters. Managing partner Jae Hoon Kim presides over the IP practice, which boasts the highest number of ranked individuals in the South Korea chapter. Un Ho Kim and Vera Eun Woo Lee emerge in the gold tier of the enforcement and litigation table this year. A former IP court judge who continues to appear regularly before the High Court and IPTAB on behalf of large domestic companies, Kim is “very professional, dedicated and deals with client concerns like they are his own”. Lee has recently been involved in defending Actial Farmaceutica SRL in a multifaceted legal suit at the IPTAB and King.com in an unfair competition suit before the Supreme Court of Appeal. Sun Chang is as proficient in contentious trademark matters as he is in licensing negotiations and franchise transactions. WTR 1000 debutant and former Samsung in-house counsel John Kim makes his way into the enforcement and litigation table this year after representing EPIC Games in an epic unfair competition suit against PUBG Corp. After almost 15 years in the trademark field, Il Hee Bahn debuts in the prosecution and strategy table. Acting on behalf of major foreign brands has garnered profusive praise for both her and Lee. “I have found the work of Vera and Il Hee to be of consistently high quality, and they provide professional service in a timely and courteous fashion, with well-founded advice on complex issues,” affirms one satisfied patron.

Lee International IP & Law Group

Over half a century of history puts Lee International IP & Law Group in prime position to prosecute and enforce trademarks for its diverse range of clients. One of the most prolific trademark filers in town, the IP boutique is equally proficient in defending IP rights in court, which it does so cost effectively. IP veteran Young-Hwan Na draws on four decades of experience to advise his clients.

Muhann Patent & Law Firm

Joining the WTR 1000 for the first time is Muhann Patent & Law Firm, an IP boutique founded in 2002. “Known to provide fast and highly efficient solutions for big Korean conglomerates” and for being particularly client focused, the side represents the likes of Creative Nail Design, LG Household & Healthcare Co, and GS Caltex Co in both contentious and non-contentious trademark matters. Given its excellent quality of work and experienced team of 52 professionals, no wonder it was designated to represent Korea Airports Corporation and Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology in 2014. Prosecution is the firm’s strong suit, filing approximately 2,000 trademark and design applications annually in South Korea. Its predominantly domestic client portfolio is expanding too, with a regional experts group to handle international matters. Meanwhile, disputes specialist and managing partner Kee-Wan Koo helms the trademark practice.

Yoon & Yang IP LLC

With a formidable team that includes two gold-rated leaders at the fore, Yoon & Yang IP LLC has been raking in wins at KIPO and the IPTAB this year. Having successfully defended CNF Co, Xiomi Inc and LKK Health Products Group Limited in contentious matters, the side continues to carry out customs recordal work to ensure that clients’ IP rights are fully protected. Sought after for their sage advice on trademark prosecution and strategy, managing partner Doug Jay Lee is popular among domestic companies while S Ted Kwon captains the trademark team. Their trilingual colleague Young Joo Song serves numerous Chinese clients, from which she receives effusive praise. “She displays a firm understanding of IP matters, not just in Korea but also in Europe and the Middle East. She is a strategic thinker and a great asset to our team. Not only is her work timely and thorough, she communicates well and is always ready to provide the advice that we need. She is truly an extension of our team and someone I can have full confidence in.”

YOU ME Patent & Law Firm

Known among local peers for its trademark practice, YOU ME Patent & Law Firm garners excellent client feedback from foreign associates. “Consistently offering high-quality services for trademark matters, it is one of the leading IP firms in Korea” and “a fantastic resource that is always available with a quick turnaround time”. The IP boutique recently opened another office in Bundang, where it continues to represent big-name domestic companies as well as local SMEs. With more than 56 attorneys and employees in its trademark and design department, the firm is unsurprisingly one of the top local trademark filers, with more than 2,300 applications in 2018 alone. Sunghwan Kim and Kyungsook Lee are the main contacts.

YP Lee Mock & Partners

Rising to the coveted gold tier of the prosecution and strategy table this year, YP Lee Mock & Partners has a volume of outbound trademark filings that matches its impressive size. Within one year, the largest IP law firm in South Korea has doubled its trademark department to 15 trademark attorneys, including one US attorney. Reputed trademark expert S Yong Lee is vice president of the Korea Patent Attorneys Association. Setting his sights on more than just outbound cases, he also chairs the Special Committee for Studying Cooperation and Development for Intellectual Property between North and South Korea. Adept in all IP matters, Younggi Hong is best placed to advise on IP portfolio strategies. A favourite among European companies, particularly global fashion houses, Yoon-Kyung Cho “has practised for a long time in IP prosecution, trademark and design” and now takes charge of inbound cases. Meanwhile, colleague Wonju Jang receives high praise from satisfied foreign associates for being a “responsive and efficient IP lawyer, who delivers precise work and very insightful advice”. “He has a very deep knowledge and understanding of trademark issues in Korea as well as a wide network of contacts.”

Yulchon LLC

“Dedicated and experienced in consulting and litigating on major trademark disputes,” Yulchon LLC is a full-service law firm that thrives in high-stakes and high-profile trademark litigation cases on behalf of the largest South Korean companies. It consistently succeeds in the district and higher courts, recently securing a victory for Kumkang Shoes against Regal Corp in the Seoul High Court, as well as defending Gallery AM Inc against Fascy Inc in a trademark infringement matter. Besides being highly specialised in intellectual property and business trade secrets, the litigation powerhouse has an ingrained understanding of the IT and cryptocurrency sectors. What is more, it is branching out into non-traditional, technology-based IP work, having established a new industry IP team to handle complex transactions involving emerging technologies. Clients are “very satisfied with the firm’s fast feedback and professionalism”, which has helped to draw a rising number of foreign companies into its portfolio. Gold-rated Jeong Yeol Choe has 21 years of bench experience and litigation skills, which has proven to be an invaluable and unique asset. The well-known former patent court judge is now deeply involved in the local IP industry.

Other recommended experts

Sung-Woo Choi of Wooin Patent & Law Firm rises to the gold tier this year at the prompting of his peers. “He has more than 20 years of experience in all aspects of trademarks, during which he has published extensively on trademark law and conducted numerous lectures and seminars.” With books that “are loved by Korean trademark attorneys and in-house counsels”, the “most frequently sought-after adviser to KIPO” is also active in various trademark organisations. After two decades at Lee International IP & Law Group, Seo-Young Im joins Barun IP & Law, where he prosecutes trademarks. Trilingual Jeonghyun Kim recently swapped Bae, Kim & Lee LLC for Hanol Law Offices. At Kim Choi & Lim, Young-Chol Kim is “a great partner” to foreign associates, “handling complex matters with ease”. What is more, “it is easy to communicate with him despite the time difference with Europe”. Sang-Yong Lee draws on more than 25 years of experience in the IP field, including as a trademark examiner at KIPO and a trial examiner at the Korean Patent Tribunal, to prosecute trademarks for foreign companies at Yoon & Lee International Patent & Law Firm, alongside US attorney Jaewon Yoon. “Not only is he very reliable, efficient and responsive, he can highlight things that are peculiar to his country to help us assist our clients.” An expert in anti-counterfeiting and domain name disputes, Ho-Hyun Nahm leads Barun IP & Law and provides clients with “reliable and effective advice”. Jang Won Park, founder of Park Kim & Partner, is “very dedicated, experienced and client focused”. Hailing from Sungam International Patent & Law Firm, Kyung Min Suh makes his debut in the WTR 1000 following endorsements from foreign associates. “He is an expert in trademark prosecution, delivering efficient and high-quality service,” while his firm consists of amazing partners and colleagues, who excel at all aspects of trademark protection in Korea”.

Individuals: enforcement and litigation

  • Tae-Yeon Cho - Cho & Partners 
  • Jeong Yeol Choe - Yulchon LLC
  • Un Ho Kim - Lee & Ko
  • Vera Eun Woo Lee - Lee & Ko
  • Ik-Hyun Seo - Cho & Partners 
  • Alexandra Bélec - Kim & Chang
  • Sun Chang - Lee & Ko
  • Jae Hoon Kim - Lee & Ko
  • Jihyun Kim - Bae, Kim & Lee LLC
  • John Kim - Lee & Ko
  • Ann Nam-Yeon Kwon - Kim & Chang
  • Taeck Soo Kwon - Bae, Kim & Lee LLC
  • Kyungsook Lee - YOU ME Patent & Law Firm
  • Young-Hwan Na - Lee International IP & Law Group
  • Ho-Hyun Nahm - Barun IP & Law
  • YoungJoo Song - Yoon & Yang IP LLC 
  • Young Sun Chung - DARAE LAW & IP LLC

Individuals: prosecution and strategy

  • Sung-Woo Choi - Wooin Patent & Law Firm
  • Sung-Nam Kim - Kim & Chang
  • S Ted Kwon - Yoon & Yang IP LLC
  • DJ (Doug Jay) Lee - Yoon & Yang IP LLC 
  • Jeong Won Lee - FirstLaw PC
  • Ho-Hyun Nahm - Barun IP & Law
  • Ik-Hyun Seo - Cho & Partners 
  • In-Gyung Baek - KBK & Associates
  • Alexandra Bélec - Kim & Chang
  • Alex Hyon Cho - Kim & Chang
  • Yoon-Kyung Cho - YP Lee Mock & Partners
  • Younggi Hong - YP Lee Mock & Partners
  • Seo-Young Im - Barun IP & Law
  • Sunghwan Kim - YOU ME Patent & Law Firm
  • Kee-Wan Koo - Muhann Patent & Law Firm
  • S Yong Lee - YP Lee Mock & Partners
  • Sang-Yong Lee - Yoon & Lee International Patent & Law Firm
  • YoungJoo Song - Yoon & Yang IP LLC 
  • Jay (Young-June) Yang - Kim & Chang
  • Il Hee Bahn - Lee & Ko
  • James Yeon-Soo Kim - HanYang International
  • Jeonghyun Kim - Hanol Law Offices
  • Keumho Lee - DARAE LAW & IP Group
  • Kyung Min Suh - Sungam International Patent & Law Firm

Luminaries

  • Young-Chol Kim - Kim Choi & Lim
  • Jang Won Park - Park Kim & Partner