Comprehensive patent law change in Korea in early 2017:
The return of the post-grant opposition system
The most recent amendment of the Korean Patent Act deserves special attention as it contains a number of significant changes to Korea's patent procedures. The amended Korean Patent Act will enter into force on 1 March 2017 and includes the following provisions:
- reduction of the period for filing the examination request from five to three years from the filing date;
- introduction of an "ex officio re-examination system": if the examiner discovers a reason for refusal even after taking a decision to grant, he may still revoke his original decision and start a re-examination of the application ex officio as long as the applicant has not yet paid the first annual fees;
- new regulations for misappropriated applications: if a patent is granted to a patentee who is not the rightful owner, a party claiming ownership rights may simply request to transfer the right from the registered patentee (currently, the party has to request invalidation and file a new application).
- The most notable change, however, is the re-introduction of the post-grant opposition system. This procedure existed in the past before it was abolished in 2007. With this revision Korea is following in the footsteps of Japan, where post-grant opposition was abolished in 2003 and re-introduced in April 2015. In Korea, the new opposition system will apply to all patents and utility models granted from 1 March 2017 onwards.
However, the opposition system is designed as an ex-parte re-examination proceeding, meaning that the opponent cannot participate in the proceedings. In contrast thereto, the patentee is given the opportunity to respond to the arguments and to correct the claims during the opposition proceedings.