Intellectual Property Tribunal proceeds with overall reorganization of Judgment Division
- Improvement of fairness, independence and fidelity of hearings is anticipated -
The Intellectual Property Tribunal (IPT) (chief: Park, Sung Jun) announced that the current 11 judgment divisions are reorganized overall into 36 systems as of the 14th in order to enhance fairness, independence and hearing fidelity for patent trials.
The IPT is a special administrative appeals agency which handles intellectual property conflicts in relation to such as patents, trademarks and designs in accordance with quasi-judicial procedures and also performs a validity judgement function when someone objects against a decision of rejection by an Examiner of the Korean Intellectual Property Office (KIPO).
Previously under the IPT, there were 11 judgment divisions which were divided by right and technical field, 11 presiding trial judges at director-level and 96 Examiners below the section chief-level, which means each presiding trial judge should have directed about 9 Examiners.
However, with such excessive leadership structure, it was difficult to commit to the agreement of 3 Examiners per the requirements of the Patent Act while also continuously enhancing fairness and the independence of judgments.
Also, although most cases among the approximately 10,000 cases being handled annually were heard in written form, reorganization of the judgment system was needed in order to enhance oral hearings in depth since the importance of intellectual property such as patents, etc. has been increasing recently.
Thus, internal and external feedback was collected for system improvement over 1 year since 2019 along with consultation with the Ministry concerned, and 4 statute revisions were consequently completed, such as the Enforcement Decree of the Patent Act and Trademark act, KIPO organization and enforcement organization regulations, etc.
As a result, the judgment divisions of the IPT were drastically enhanced from 11 to 36, and each judgment division is organized with 1 presiding trial judge and 1 Examiner so that the independence of judgement divisions is strengthened and a substantive ‘3 person agreement’ is enforced overall.
In order to make the judgment system more efficient without increasing personnel such as presiding trial judges or Examiners, the requirement for presiding trial judge was upgraded to being a chief of a department who has wide experience in examination trial lawsuits.
Meanwhile, since other key countries like the U.S, Europe, Japan and China, etc., have 3 person judgment divisions (1 presiding trial judge and 2 Examiners), such reorganized structure accords with international standards.
According to this expansion of judgment divisions and presiding trial judges, more faithful 3 person agreement will be possible since much more time will be able to be devoted to hearings. Also, by directly hearing the opinions of persons directly involved in judgment court, judgment divisions can easily organize issues and there will be a basis for overall enhancing oral hearings, and acceptance of trial decisions by the persons directly involved will be higher.
Also, cases of great social concern, cases with various interested parties, cases with complicated technical legal issues or cases requiring detailed technical expertise will be divided among the enhanced 36 judgment divisions which means such cases can be professionally handled.
Especially, equal judgment divisions will be formed with 3 chiefs who have rich experience in examination trial lawsuits so that hearings will be strengthened through strong debate on corresponding issues by said 3 chiefs. A presiding trial judge should vitalize quality monitoring by judgment divisions and debates between judgment divisions in order to enhance unity of judgment standards.
The director of the IPT stated, “by preparing the 3 person agreement system conforming to the court, this year will be the first year of this innovative basis for patent trials. In order for the IPT to receive citizens’ trust, our organization will continuously innovate.”
<Key map of Judgment division before and after revision>