August 18, 2021

KIPO's New "Tech Police" Exclusively Dedicated to Preventing Technology Leakage and Infringement

KIPO's New "Tech Police" Exclusively Dedicated to Preventing Technology Leakage and Infringement
-An organizational restructuring to newly create the Technology & Design Police Division-

The Korean Intellectual Property Office (KIPO) Commissioner Yong Rae Kim announced the official formation of a separate special judicial police (SJP) group at KIPO solely devoted to preventing the leakage and infringement of key technologies that are core to national industrial competitiveness.

- KIPO recently carried out a restructuring with the purpose of expanding the former "Intellectual Property Investigation Division" and allowing concentrated investigations according to specific areas of intellectual property. A separate "Technology & Design Police Division" was newly established to carry out investigations related to primarily technologies and designs while the "Trademark Police Division" will continue with trademark investigations and the "Unfair Competition Investigation Division" with administrative investigations.

Previously, the Intellectual Property Investigation Division consisted of 47 personnel to investigate illegal activities related to trademarks, patents, unfair competition, etc. In the restructuring, an additional 11 officers joined to supplement investigations regarding technology. Now, there are 22 people in the Technology & Design Police Division, 29 people in the Trademark Police Division, and 7 people in the Unfair Competition Investigation Division. In total, there are 58 personnel for the criminal or administrative investigation of intellectual property.

- Overall, KIPO retains about 1,200 personnel working in examination and trial, and about 500 of them have Ph.D degrees or have licenses as lawyers or patent attorneys. In order to enable swift and fair investigations, KIPO recruited those with technical and legal expertise gained through years of experience in IP examinations and trials to form the Technology & Design Police Division. This "Tech Police" for investigations related to technology will serve as protector of core national technologies by preventing overseas leakage and infringement amid the growing technology war between countries.

KIPO first established an SJP on trademarks in 2010 for investigations focused on the infringement of trademarks. Since then, they have processed about 53,000 reported cases and investigated approximately 4,000 individual suspects with criminal charges while confiscating 12 million pieces of counterfeit products (estimated to be worth KRW 520 billion in genuine product value) in total. KIPO has also actively responded to large-scale counterfeit enforcement and helped block the distribution of counterfeits in the field closely related to the health and safety of the public. For example, the efforts have led to the crack down of counterfeit face mask packs (worth KRW 20 billion at genuine product value, 2019), counterfeit automobile wheels (worth KRW 22.5 billion at genuine product value, 2017), health foods (worth KRW 65.2 billion at genuine product value, 2015), etc. In addition, KIPO’s investigative efforts related to technology has resulted in 415 criminal cases and the investigation of 759 individual suspects for criminal charges since 2019. This accounts for 17% of the entire criminal cases involving technology per year in South Korea.

- Commissioner Kim expressed that a dedicated "Tech Police" will allow investigation to be focused on cases of technology leakages overseas. He added that "we will crack down on any violation of innovative technologies that Korean companies have worked hard to create in order to foster a fair market order."