November 18, 2013
Greater protection for creative ideas
In the near future it will be possible to apply for a patent at an earlier stage by providing materials which explain the idea. Computer programs, such as smartphone apps and mobile games are expected to be available for patent examination. In line with this, the Korean Intellectual Property Office (KIPO) recently confirmed and presented its measures to ‘enhance the protection of ideas’. These measures involve active support in turning creative ideas into intellectual property rights (IPRs), diversifying the methods for protecting ideas, enhancing the dispute resolution system, and enforcing laws related to the protection of ideas.
The first step will require KIPO to amend specific acts, which will be in force by 2015. This will allow a quicker process for individuals to turn ideas into IPRs. In the current environment, it can take a while to patent at an early stage due to filling out various types of forms such as “technological fields”, “invention content”, and “detailed content to realize the invention”. With the changes being proposed, however, the applicant will be able to apply for a patent simply by preparing materials which can explain the idea without going through any laborious processes. Patent applications based solely on research notes, papers, and other materials that can explain the particular invention will be possible through these proposals.
The time taken to acquire IPRs will also be adjusted in response to current market trends. A “divisional application system” will be introduced. This will make it easier for individuals to register additional patents for ideas and technologies after the decision on a patent acquisition has been made.
The process for obtaining rights for idea holders will be made easier by altering the conditions for claiming an exception to public disclosure from “mandatory advance reporting when applying for patents” to “proving after patent application”. Legal amendments in line with the above changes are expected in 2014.
The types of ideas and technologies which can be the subject of IPRs will also be expanded. Currently, for inventions related to computer programs, only those which are saved on recording media, such as CDs, are subject to patent examination. KIPO plans to amend its patent examination guidelines in 2014 to include computer programs distributed via other methods, such as smartphone apps and mobile games, regardless of the format.
Furthermore, we also plan to improve protection for trade dress. At present, “trade dress”, comprising the product’s shape, smell, sound, and movements, is only protected if it has become famous through actual use. KIPO plans to amend the Trademark Act in 2014 to protect the trademark rights of goods and services once they are distinguished from others through actual use, irrespective of how well-known they are.
In addition, KIPO is looking to prepare basic regulations that provide a diverse range of protection for creative ideas. KIPO will introduce general regulations in accordance with the Unfair Competition Act and plans to prepare a trade secret protection system and standard guides to give proper protection for the new types of ideas which emerge through economic and technological development.
KIPO will enhance the level of protection provided through its trade secret protection system. Currently, it is only possible to punish those leaking trade secrets (ideas and technologies) from private companies, and protection is not extended to universities or private individuals. Starting in January next year, KIPO is going to make it possible to punish anyone infringing on a right by leaking a trade secret to enhance the protection of ideas.
In addition, KIPO plans to offer a “service for certifying the original copy of an idea,” to provide certification on the originator, timing, and content of the idea or technology, such as a design or slogan. The certificates would be available for use in solving any disputes which may arise. For example, if entering a contest with a technology or idea prior to having it patented, a person can register the concept in advance, providing details on its content through the ‘original copy certification system’ to prepare a defense against any possible claims in future.
In addition, KIPO plans to build a system to prevent and resolve disputes related to ideas and technologies. Such measures will reduce the inappropriate use of corporate ideas and technologies and provide proper compensation in cases of infringement. KIPO will also enhance its crackdown on piracy, such as the production counterfeit goods and illegal copying. Plans to provide professional consultations on idea creation and technology to the socially disadvantaged, SMEs, and business start-ups are also in the pipeline.
KIPO Commissioner Kim Young-min stated that the “Measures to enhance the protection of creative ideas” will enable Koreans to create more ideas and to use them more widely by merging imagination and creativity with science and technology, which together can contribute to realizing a creative economy that creates new markets and jobs.