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[Herald Interview] ‘Korea should take leadership in the world intellectual property sector’

KIPO commissioner vows to expand role to prepare for rising technologies

Having risen to one of the global technology innovators within a relatively short period of time, South Korea holds a unique position in the intellectual property sector, acting as a bridge between developing nations and advanced ones.

Recognizing its strength and challenges, the country should now focus on increasing its leverage in the international intellectual property realm, according to the chief of the Korea Intellectual Property Office.

“In step with key technological development such as artificial intelligence and big data, our organization plans to expand its role beyond conventional horizons such as patent evaluation,” KIPO Commissioner Sung Yun-mo told The Korea Herald in an interview.

“Our priority role is to build a protection system for rising new technology and to build a virtuous cycle to promote innovation and technology transactions.”

KIPO Commissioner Sung Yun-mo
KIPO Commissioner Sung Yun-mo

Sung, who took office in July this year, underlined the importance of an intellectual property headquarters under the context of the “fourth industrial revolution.”

“Having started my public career in the commerce-industry ministry back in 1989 and later working in the office for government policy coordination, I have always paid close attention on how intellectual property policies contribute to the nation’s economic innovation,” Sung said.

“But I realize that these are challenging times, given the ‘fourth industrial revolution’ and the radical changes it is brining upon our business world.”

Over the past five years, the number of patent registration in key innovation sectors -- such as artificial intelligence, IoT, big data, cloud computing and 3-D printing -- has soared twelvefold, from 421 in 2010 to 5,107 in 2015.

In order for Korea to make the best use of its advanced technology and growing leverage in the intellectual property field, it is crucial that it should reinforce partnership with the World Intellectual Property Organization, according to the KIPO chief.

“Korea is in fact a major contributor to WIPO’s income, with its high number of international patent applications,” he said.

As of last year, Korea held 15,560 cases of international applications to the Patent Cooperation Treaty, accounting for some 6.7 percent of the world total and ranking fifth after the United States, Japan, China and Germany. Some 75 percent of the WIPO’s income comes from PCT commissions.

Also, KIPO has donated some 12 billion won ($10.6 million) in funds to WIPO since 2004, supporting the organization’s efforts to advance intellectual property in developing parts of the world.

Of its accomplishments was an international workshop involving the intellectual property policy chiefs of 13 Asian states, an event held in Daejon in April this year. The participants came up with a joint declaration to promote regional cooperation on intellectual property protection.

Sung, who visited Geneva earlier this month to attend the WIPO annual conference, urged the global community for “strong yet flexible” protective measures for AI and big data technologies.

“Only by providing tangible protection for technological innovation may (a country) take the initiative in a world of the ‘fourth industrial revolution,’” Sung said in his keynote speech.

As practical actions to prevent infringements of intellectual property and to safeguard the right of innovators, the KIPO chief suggested punitive damage compensations.

“We are also reviewing the idea of restricting the act of stealing ideas during business transactions and contests, allowing victims to seek for a civil action for their damages,” he added.

KIPO is now working on inducing the WIPO to open a regional office in South Korea, hoping to provide improved service for intellectual patent applicants here and in the neighboring countries. The international organization incumbently holds five regional offices in Singapore, Japan, Brazil, China and Russia respectively.

“Having a regional office here will not only help Korean companies but also contribute to WIPO’s goal of providing intellectual property campaigns to developing nations,” Sung said.

“By connecting our experience of having risen from underdeveloped to intellectual property leader, Korea will act as a foothold for WIPO‘s key businesses."

By Bae Hyun-jung  (
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