The Korean Design Protection Act has recently been revised,
and the revised Act will take effect on September 22 2017.
Extension of the grace period for novelty to 12 months
The current Korean Design Protection Act allows a grace
period for novelty if a design application is filed within six
months of the date when the design is publicly known or worked.
However, under the revised Act, the grace period will be
extended to 12 months from the date of disclosure.
More opportunity of claiming the grace period for
Under the current Act, the grace period claim for novelty
should be filed either (i) at the time of filing a design
application, or (ii) when responding to an office action.
However, according to the revised Act, the grace period for
novelty can be claimed at any time before the allowance of
registration by KIPO.
Introduction of DAS
According to the revised Act, like the current Korean Patent
Act, the WIPO Digital Access Service (DAS) for priority
documents can now be used to meet requirements for claiming
priority of a design application under the Paris Convention.
Therefore, the exchange of priority documents can take place
electronically between foreign patent offices and KIPO, meaning
an applicant does not need to submit a priority document to
KIPO. The agreement in exchange of priority documents has so
far only been made between KIPO and the USPTO, but it is
expected that more countries will be included in the exchange
in the near future.
Increase in penalty limit
The penalty limits in connection with perjury, fraudulent
indication and fraud have been raised. Starting from September
22 2017, any person who violates perjury law will be punishable
by imprisonment for not more than five years or by a fine not
exceeding W50 million ($50,000). Any person who commits
fraudulent indication or fraud will be punishable by
imprisonment for not more than three years or by a fine not
exceeding W30 million ($30,000).
Design Examination Guidelines
KIPO's Design Examination Guidelines were also recently
revised, and became effective as of January 1 2017, to expand
the scope of creativity and protection of design.
Clear evidence is required to negate creativity
Design applications consisting of a well-known shape or
pattern, for example a geometric shape such as a hexahedron or
cylinder, have often been rejected for lack of creativity
without any clear evidence.
For this reason, so-called minimalist designs, which pursue
minimal and simple decoration, were rejected based on the
ground of lack of creativity, irrespective of the type of
According to the revised Guidelines, however, when KIPO
rejects a design application for lack of creativity, it now
must present supporting evidence, unless it is obvious that the
design is represented by a common technique in the field.
Standard for unity of partial design is alleviated
In the past, in cases when a partial design application
included two or more parts of a product design which are
physically separated, the application was considered to relate
to one design only when the parts were recognised as having
unity in creation of the design as a whole. Otherwise, the
application was rejected since it could not be viewed as
claiming one design.
According to the revised Guidelines, if each part of a
design is not recognised as having unity of creation as a whole
but carries out one function, the parts are considered to have
unity in function, and thus the partial design application is
recognised as claiming one design.
Scope of product for design is broadened
Collections of powder or granules were not recognised as
products of designs in the past. However, solidified and shaped
objects, such as sugarcane and solid cement, can now be
recognised as products of designs.
Scope of similarity of automobile parts is narrowed
According to the revised Guidelines, when determining
similarity of designs regarding automobile parts, the scope of
protection of the prior-registered or used design is viewed
narrowly considering the technical characteristics of the
With the above change in the Examination Guidelines, it is
now easier to have a design application regarding automobile
HANOL Intellectual Property & Law
6th Floor, 163, Yang Jae Cheon-Ro, Gang Nam-Gu
Seoul 06302, Republic of Korea
Tel: +82 2 942 1100
Fax: +82 2 942 2600