"South Korea aims to establish itself as a central hub within the global intellectual property network through strategic partnerships, technology-focused policies and active international engagement,” said Commissioner Lee Insil of the Korean Intellectual Property Office during her speech at the 64th World Intellectual Property Organization General Assembly held in Switzerland on July 6.
During the first half of the year, the patent chief underscored Korea’s dedication to creating a patent-friendly environment by engaging in a series of international events and talks. Lee told The Korea Herald how she leveraged the international platforms to reinforce Korea's position as a global IP hub.
In her WIPO speech, Lee articulated Korea's commitment to improving IP practices, including the adoption of novel solutions such as an AI-streamlined patent examination process.
"We have incorporated AI-based automation into new patent reviews since (a few) years ago. Working with domestic IT companies like LG and Kakao has significantly expedited the process," she elaborated during the interview.
During her WIPO speech, Lee did not miss the opportunity to endorse the establishment of a WIPO Regional Office in South Korea. A WIPO Regional Office in the country would reaffirm Korea's position as a global intellectual property hub and better enable international collaborations, she said during the speech.
Lee also inked a memorandum of understanding with WIPO Director-General Daren Tang for the KIPO-WIPO Personnel Exchange Program on July 5. While the details have not been finalized, this first-of-its-kind initiative is expected to kick-start in 2024, allowing personnel from both organizations to exchange expertise and operational practices.
"The exchange between KIPO and WIPO will not only streamline the patent application process for Korean applicants but also pave the way for potential WIPO regional offices in Korea," she explained.
During the WIPO gathering from July 5 to 7, Lee held bilateral meetings with 12 international patent offices, resulting in memoranda signed with Australia, Saudi Arabia and Sweden.
“We are committed to sharing our knowledge and experience in intellectual property with our global partners," she said.
The agreements covered areas such as collaboration on AI-related patents with Australia, the provision of Korean textbooks for IP education in Saudi Arabia, and support for Swedish applications and researchers with patent information services.
Earlier, from June 12 to 16, Lee also attended the IP5 Talks in Hawaii -- an annual meeting of the five global leading patent offices -- Korea, the US, Japan, China and Europe.
During the talks, Lee held bilateral discussions with the US Patent and Trademark Office. A notable outcome, she highlighted, was a memorandum signed to support biotechnology firms. This is a strategic agreement between Korean invention and IP protection agencies and the Korean-American Intellectual Property Bar Association to provide "vital American legal expertise" to Korean biotech companies expanding to the US market, she explained.
Lee also took part in a women's entrepreneurship event organized by the US Patent and Trademark Office during the IP5 talks, introducing female Korean inventors to promote women's participation in the IP field.
Another key patent alliance took place on June 22 in Hanoi with Vietnam, one of Korea's biggest trading partners. To address a recent rise in trademark infringement, both patent offices agreed on a memorandum focusing on prompt IP examination and rights protection. The talk also agreed on the extension of Patent Prosecution Highway, a program that enables Korean companies to swiftly secure patents in countries like Vietnam by using the results of Korean IP office reviews.
As part of international developments, Lee also highlighted the resumption of the Korean-Japanese Patent Commissioners' talks held on May 31 in Tokyo after a six-year hiatus.
The talk revolved around resuming operational-level consultative bodies, particularly those centered around trademark and design examination, and restarting examiner exchange initiatives. They also explored the potential implementation of a Collaborative Search Program, which offers more comprehensive prior art evaluations and expedite examination by combining early search results from multiple patent offices of different countries.
“We have already seen the benefits of CSP through partnerships with the US and Saudi Arabia. We hope Japan becomes part of it as well,” Lee said.
She emphasized that the series of international engagements on efficient patent examinations and protection of rights is part of the strategy to form an integrated global IP network.
“The signing of various memoranda of understanding and the launch of international initiatives are more than just bureaucratic steps. They represent key mechanisms in establishing an interconnected, global intellectual property ecosystem for Korea,” Lee said.
By Moon Joon-hyun and Lee Kwon-hyung