IP protection in South Korea

You can register intellectual property (IP) in South Korea for trade marks, patents and designs. 

The Korean Intellectual Property Office (KIPO) is the government body responsible for the registration of trade marks, patents and designs, which can all be applied for online. The KIPO website also provides a searchable patent database.

Foreign businesses that do not have a place of business in South Korea are required to lodge patent, design and trade mark registrations through a South Korean IP attorney.

The South Korean IP system is advanced compared to many other countries in Asia. South Korean companies are prolific filers of patent and trade mark applications for inventions and local brands.

In general terms, IP registration and protection in South Korea is similar to Australia. Filing and renewal fees tend to be lower than the comparable Australian fees and higher than those of many other Asian countries.

Australian applicants should also factor translation fees into the total cost of filing applications in Korea, as documents such as patent specifications must be filed in Korean.

Trade marks

  • South Korea follows a first-to-file rule for obtaining trade mark rights. This means the first person to file a trade mark application will generally have priority over a prior user of the mark in South Korea. Trade mark applications should therefore be filed as soon as possible in South Korea.
  • Three-dimensional trade marks are protected in South Korea. However, other non-traditional marks such as sounds and smells are not yet registrable. 
  • South Korean Customs provide cross-border measures for the protection of registered trade marks.
  • Trade mark registrations may be removed if they are not used for a period of three or more consecutive years after registration.

Patents

  • Two forms of patent protection are available in South Korea: patents (with a 20 year term) and utility models (with a 10 year term and a lower level of inventiveness required).
  • Certain types of subject matter are not patentable in South Korea.

Designs

  • Two categories of design applications are available in South Korea: normal examination designs (substantive) and non-examination designs (non-substantive). Non-examination designs are restricted to two-dimensional products (such as wrapping paper) or those with a short life-cycle (such as clothing and other goods dependent on fashion).

Plant varieties

  • South Korean IP laws allow for the protection of plant variety rights for a period of 20 or 25 years, depending on the type of plant.
Last updated: 
22 March 2016