October 23, 2020

Heads of KIPO and USPTO agree on reinforcing cooperative efforts on AI-related policies

In an IP Heads Meeting that took place via video call on October 16th, 8:30 (October 15th, 19:30 in the U.S.) from Seoul Office of the Korean Intellectual Property Office (KIPO), Commissioner Yong Rae Kim of the KIPO met with Director Andrei Ianku of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and agreed on developing new collaborative efforts amid accelerated digital transformation trend.

This meeting was held as there has been a growing consensus that the cooperation between the two offices is now more important than ever amid the digital transformation trend accelerated by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Both offices showed that the number of patent and trademark applications filed in their respective countries has increased after the Covid-19 outbreak.

What is noteworthy is that Korea saw a drastic increase* in the number of patent and trademark applications filed by small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and individuals, which were expected to be affected the hardest by the Covid-19 pandemic. The U.S. also saw a similar trend.

* New filings in Korea (January through September, 2020): Increase by 3.6% in patents; 1.5% in designs; and 14.7% in trademarks (8.1% in all IPRs)
* Filings by applicant: Increase by 24% in SMEs; 20% in individuals; and 11.6% in large corporations

Two offices have been working together to support inventors and companies since the initial stage of the Covid-19 outbreak, for instance, by implementing relief measures for applicants in a prompt manner and making technologies and patent statistics related to Covid-19 vaccines and treatments available for public use through websites. The two offices agreed on continuing to cooperate in this endeavor.

Director Ianku mentioned that Korea is one of the countries with the highest increase rate in the number of patent applications filed in U.S., only second to China, and highly praised the response and efforts of Korean companies, remarking that this shows how efficiently and intelligently Korean companies are preparing for the post-Covid-19 era.

The key takeaway of this meeting was that the two offices decided to start bilateral policy cooperation in order to effectively protect new types of intellectual property that came into existence with the emergence of AI and new technologies.

This decision came as the Heads of the two offices felt that an active role of IP offices is important in responding to new technologies such as AI and data.

Recently, the USPTO conducted a survey to improve the IPR system in the era of AI, and published a report* on intellectual property policy in connection with the advancement of AI. The KIPO is also putting efforts into developing policies for effectively fostering and protecting industries related to AI ??and data.

* The USPTO published a report (entitled "Public Views on Artificial Intelligence and Intellectual Property Policy") in October 2020 after gathering opinions of experts and professionals on legal and institutional issues related to AI in connection with patents and other IPRs (information collected from August 2019 to January 2020).

During the meeting, Director Ianku proposed bilateral cooperation between the two offices for in-depth discussions on AI policies, which was accepted by Commissioner Kim with earnestness.

With this agreement, the two offices plan to share AI-related information collected and studied by the respective offices so far and start discussing cooperative plans soon.

Commissioner Kim emphasized, "In the current situation of rapid change into digital economy, it is the right time for the two offices to start discussing AI and new technologies." He further noted that "We plan to extend discussions to other countries so that we can provide IP standards and practice which will be helpful in leading the era of digital transformation."