Korean to English Legal Translations
and Intellectual Property Rights
in South Korea

English to Korean Patent Translation Services

We’ve blogged about the importance of professional legal translation services in protecting intellectual property rights in Korea. South Korea’s Intellectual Property (IP) laws allow an international company or individual to register their trademarks, patents and designs for protection in the South Korean market.

The responsibility for overseeing the registration process and enforcement of the country’s IP laws falls under the jurisdiction of the Korean Intellectual Property Office (KIPO). It should be noted that all foreign businesses without a South Korean registered address are required to register all patents, trademarks or designs with the KIPO via a South Korean attorney.

In general, South Korea has an advanced IP legal system and, when done right, provides stellar protection of one’s IP interests. Although the system and process is fairly similar to the US system, the one hurdle is the language requirement. All IP applications in South Korea must be filed in the local language, requiring a company to utilize a professional English to Korean and Korean to English translation service.

Overview of South Korea Trademark Law

South Korea utilizes the first to file rule for trademark registration, meaning that the first person to file a trademark application will have priority over a prior user of the trademark in South Korea. One difference between the US and Korean trademark law is that although South Korea does recognize and protect three-dimensional trademarks, in general, it does not recognize ‘non-traditional’ marks such as sounds and smells.

Further, according to Korean IP law, if a registered trademark is not used for a period of three or more consecutive years, then the trademark’s registration can be removed.

Overview of South Korea Patent Law

South Korean IP law allows for two forms of patent protection. On the one hand, a patent registration allows for a 20 year term of protection. On the other hand, a utility registration allows for a 10 year term of protection with a lower level of inventiveness required. The inventiveness requirement limits what types of subject matters are patentable under the South Korean law, and this is an area that regularly requires detailed explanation and use of professional legal translation services.

Overview of South Korea Design Protection Law

South Korea further allows for the protection of certain types of design: normal examination designs (substantive) and non-examination designs (non-substantive). The difference between the two is that non-examination designs are restricted to two-dimensional products and those with short life cycles (i.e. packaging paper or fashion designs).

A Word on the US -South Korea Free Trade Agreement

The US-South Korea Free Trade Agreement contains a specific chapter on intellectual property rights that allow for truly state-of-the-art protections and enforcement mechanisms that encompass all types of intellectual property.

Highlights include:

  • Protection for Copyrighted Works in a Digital Economy, including anti-circumvention provisions to prohibit the tampering of technologies specifically designed to prevent piracy and unauthorized distribution over the Internet. The agreement further contains the framework for the limitation of liability of Internet Service Providers for copyright infringement and for enhancing the rights of copyright owners over digital copies of their protected works.
  • Tough Penalties for Piracy and Counterfeiting, including a criminalization of unlawful recording of movies in theaters. To strengthen these measures, the provision includes specific enforcement procedures that authorize the use of seizure, forfeiture and destruction of counterfeit and pirated goods and the equipment used to produce them.
  • State-of-the-Art Protection for US Trademarks, including sound and scent marks. The provision further includes a dispute resolution procedure for trademarks used in Internet domain names that utilize the principles of priority, exclusivity and territoriality.

Up Next: English to Japanese
Legal Translation Services
and Intellectual Property Rights in Japan