[Newsmaker] ‘Europe’s unitary patent system will bring benefits to Korean firms’

By Park Ga-young
  • Published : Apr 7, 2017 - 15:33
  • Updated : Apr 10, 2017 - 14:19
South Korean companies will benefit from the upcoming unitary patent system in Europe, which simplifies and lowers the cost of applications, the European Patent Office’s principal director for unitary patents said Friday.

“By reducing costs and complexity of the process, the unitary patent system will benefit South Korean companies, one of the most active applicants to the EPO,” Margot Fröhlinger, the principal director for unitary patent, European and international legal affairs at the European Patent Office told The Korea Herald in Seoul on Friday.

Fröhlinger was in Seoul for a seminar co-hosted with the European Chamber of Commerce in Korea. 

Margot Fröhlinger, the principal director for unitary patent, European and international legal affairs at the European Patent Office, talks about the Unitary Patent in Seoul on Friday during a seminar co-hosted by the European Chamber of Commerce in Korea. (ECCK)

Under the current system, inventors can obtain European patents through a centralized grant procedure, which takes more than 40 months. While the centralized granting procedure will remain, improvements will be made for the post-grant procedures, which are complicated and time-consuming, according to Fröhlinger .

Currently, after obtaining a centralized patent grant, patent owners have to go through national-level verifications involving translations and national fees. The unitary patent simplifies this procedure and enables investors to obtain uniform and broad territorial patent protection in up to 26 EU member states, she said.

“One of the most frequent feedbacks we received from Korean companies is that they would like to see a faster process of the applications since many of them are ICT companies which have a shorter innovation cycle,” Fröhlinger said. "Therefore our current improvements concerning the timeliness of the pre- grant procedure together with the future simplification and cost savings of the post-grant procedure, particularly during the first 10 years, would be welcomed by South American companies." 

Patent applications from South Korea at the EPO grew by 6.5 percent in 2016. With a record high of 6,825 applications filed with the EPO, South Korea is the eighth-largest patent applicant country at the EPO.

While Samsung was No. 3 in 2016 following Dutch electronics company Philips, and Huawei of China, LG came in fourth place. Samsung, South Korea’s biggest company, showed a 2.1 percent decrease in the number of applications but LG’s applications at the EPO jumped 10.6 percent from the previous year.

“As global competition is intensifying, competitiveness of small and medium-sized companies and startups is very important for South Korea’s competitiveness,” Park Seong-joon, director general of the Intellectual Property Protection and International Cooperation Bureau at the Korean Intellectual Property Office said at the seminar. “In this vein, the unitary patent system is expected to help innovative Korean companies undermined by language barriers, costs and systemic complicity.”

Although efforts to create a single patent system goes back to 1964, the increase in the number of patent applications outside of Europe highlighted the necessity of the unitary patent regime. More than half of 159,353 patent applications filed with the EPO last year came from companies outside of Europe, mostly from the US, Japan, Korea and China, according to the EPO.

The unitary patent regime is slated to launch in December along with the Unified Patent Court, a single patent court covering 26 EU member states. Most of the EU member states except for Spain, Poland and Croatia will be part of the unitary patent regime. 

By Park Ga-young (