Characteristics of Korean Intellectual Property Law and Practice

Intellectual property rights have been major commercial assets in Korea as well as in today's world. Korea has a well-established intellectual property system to protect intellectual property rights.

Korea's statutory scheme is based upon the Continental Roman Code model. The laws governing intellectual property are no exception. The intellectual property laws can be broadly divided into two areas; industrial property and general intellectual property.

Industrial property is regulated under the Patent Act, the Utility Model Act, the Design Protection Act and the Trademark Act. The remaining intellectual property matters are governed by the Unfair Competition Prevention and Trade Secret Protection Act, the Copyright Act and the Computer Program Protection Act.

Korea joined WIPO on March 1, 1979. In addition, Korea is a member of the Paris Convention (joined in May 4, 1980), the Patent Cooperation Treaty (August 10, 1984), the Budapest Treaty (March 28, 1988), the Geneva Convention (October 10, 1987), Agreement on TRIPs (January 1, 1995), Trademark Law Treaty (February 25, 2003) and Protocol Relating to the Madrid Agreement (April 10, 2003). Further to these WIPO-administered treaties, Korea is a member of the Universal Copyright Convention.

Its membership in organizations such as WIPO and participation in other similar treaties have added a great impetus towards increasing protection of intellectual property rights in line with international expectations.

Also, the Korean Intellectual Property Office amends almost annually the IP related acts in order to keep pace with international trends relating to IP.