Intellectual Property Tribunal moves to High Quality Trials in 2020
While the Intellectual Property Tribunal (IPT) of the Korean Intellectual Property Office (KIPO) concentrated on shortening the process period and reducing a backlog of cases in 2019, they announced that in 2020, all efforts will be concentrated on improving quality by strengthening the fidelity of reviews.
Since processing of trials had been delayed, the IPT operated an emergency system from the beginning of 2019.
The personnel of the trial policy supporting department temporarily supported trial proceedings, and more cases were handled compared to the previous year through preferential deployment of the long-term experienced staff, a reformed system for improving processing efficiency such as guidelines depending on trial classification, and the efforts of the departments of the IPT.
As a result, the trial process period was shortened by 3.2 months, from 12 months (end of 2018) to 8.8 months (end of March, 2020), and the number of cases on the docket was reduced by 44% from 10,675 cases (end of 2018) to 6,027 cases (end of March, 2020).
<Shortening of trial process period>
※ P·U: Patent · Utility Model, T·D: Trademark · Design, I: Inter parties (invalidation trial, etc.),
E: Ex parte (appeal against decision of rejection, etc.)
Based on such quantitative improvement, the IPT plans to improve qualitatively as well in 2020, such as improvement in trial quality, etc., as follows:
1. Improving trial quality based on faithful investigation of evidence
① (Expansion of oral hearings) Up until now, trials have usually been proceeded via written documents. However, trials such as invalidation actions, etc., in which two parties exist, will be handled based on oral hearings, and this method will gradually be expanded in the future. However, considering social distancing requirements due to COVID-19, online video oral hearings are actively being utilized in trials.
② (Strengthening trial reviews) In some cases, there was a problem in which issues were not fixed in oral hearing so that a faithful hearing was not held or oral hearings were held several times. Thus, a trial examiner forwards pre-organized issue documents to each of the parties before an oral hearing so that both parties can adequately prepare and take sufficient actions thereagainst.
2. Improving transparency and fairness of trial proceedings
① (Recording presentations of trial cases) Unlike oral hearings, there have been a problem in presentations of trial cases in which the parties could not confirm the recording of relevant contents. Thus, main contents are recorded at the time of holding a presentation and both parties make confirmations and signatures to the recordings so that these can be utilized as evidence later.
② (Guarantee of right of defense for a right holder) There has been a problem that socially or financially underprivileged entities such as small businesses, etc. could not properly act against accelerated/preferential trial examinations which proceed rapidly. Consequently, in the case that a socially or financially underprivileged entity does not submit a reply brief or opinion, an opportunity for submitting an opinion or documents before a final trial decision is to be given to the party.
3. Improving speed and efficiency of trials
① (Expansion of accelerated trial examinations) When an invalidation case is pending in a patent court, a right holder can request for a correction action multiple times with reduced scope of a right in order to avoid invalidity of the right. However, in the past, only the first filed correction action was an object for accelerated trial examination. In the future, even if a correction action is not the first filed correction action, such correction action will be handled with accelerated trial examination if new evidence is submitted to the patent court and a need is recognized for such accelerated trial examination.
② (Early initiation) While anyone could cancel a flawed patent within six months after registration of the patent right, there was a problem for such request for canceling a patent being delayed since the review would start after six months from the registration date. However, from now on, the review regarding requested cancellation cases will be initiated even before six months when a right holder requests therefor so that it becomes possible to decide whether a right will be canceled or not in the early stages.
The Chief of the IPT stated, “the stability and predictability of a patent right is the core foundation for vitalizing investment and transactions of innovative enterprises” and added, “For this end, we will enhance the consistency of trials and reinforce the fidelity of reviews in order to conform the court’s trial procedures such as oral hearings and examination of evidence, etc.”