March 10, 2021

South Korea Reclaims Position as the 4th Country with the Largest Number of International Patent Applications in 11 Years

- Yearly PCT applications reached 20,000 after a 5.2% year-on-year increase

- Covid-19 leads to increased Digital/non-contact technology field applications submitted by universities and business

KIPO Commissioner Yong-Rae Kim announced that South Korea secured ranked 4th with the most PCT International Applications* under the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). This position surpasses Germany (5th), the ranking follows China (1st), the U.S. (2nd), and Japan (3rd). Prior, South Korea ranking dropped to 5th in 2010-2019 after holding rank as 4th in 2007-2009, but was able to reclaim the position by 2020.

* Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT): A single patent application submitted to WIPO allows patent protection in multiple member countries

Furthermore, the number of yearly PCT applications from South Korea surpassed 20,000 for the first time, having doubled within a decade (10,357 applications in 2011, 19,073 applications in 2019 and 20,060 applications in 2020).

Despite the global recession caused by COVID-19, South Korea’s PCT applications increased by 5.2% year-on-year which is the third highest rate of increase, following China (16.1%) and Switzerland (5.5%).

The digital transition and non-contact technology field, which has contributed to coping with the global pandemic, showed the highest increase in PCT applications. This particular field was 23.4% of the total PCT applications in 2019 then grew to 27.3% in 2020.

Continuing the effort to globally secure international intellectual property rights (IPRs), PCT application increased 17.6% from universities, 5.65% from SMEs and 2.2% from large corporations, albeit amid the difficult COVID-19 crisis.

The top universities for PCT applications include Seoul National University (12th), Hanyang University (17th) and Korea University (19th). The top companies for PCT application include Samsung Electronics (2nd, 3,093 applications) and LG Electronics (4th, 2,759 applications). LG Electronics recorded the highest rate of increase with a 67.6% year-on-year increase while Samsung Electronics was able to jump in the ranking from 6th in 2018 to 2nd in 2020.

Meanwhile, KIPO has been providing various supports to revitalize international patents, including the fostering of “global IP star enterprises”, direct IP support for SMEs, startup IP vouchers, fund of funds, IP mutual funds, etc.

Subsequently, KIPO plans to hold joint business presentations with WIPO for SMEs, universities and public organizations to promote the PCT application system. Also, through close cooperation with WIPO, various measures will be implemented so that South Korean companies can more conveniently utilize the PCT system.

Director Jeong Dae-Soon from Multilateral Affairs Division at KIPO says, “This result shows that, despite the global economic recession brought by COVID-19, our companies are actively securing international IPRs to enhance their global competitiveness.” He added, “Going forward, we will actively promote various support programs so that South Korean companies can safeguard their core technologies with international IPRs.”