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[Herald Interview] ‘Quality over quantity’: Upgrading Korea’s IP evaluation system

Patent agency chief pledges more support for businesses to better use IP assets

Korean Intellectual Property Office Commissioner Lee Insil speaks with The Korea Herald at the KIPO office in Daejeon on July 26. (KIPO)
Korean Intellectual Property Office Commissioner Lee Insil speaks with The Korea Herald at the KIPO office in Daejeon on July 26. (KIPO)
In light of uncertainties involving global competition for hegemony, pandemic and digitization, South Korea’s intellectual property agency chief has emphasized that upgrading the evaluation system for IP assets is essential for local companies to innovate themselves.

“The amount of South Korea’s IP assets has grown drastically over the past decades, and the country is considered one of the global IP powerhouses. Now is the time to focus on improving the quality of the IP evaluation system,” Korean Intellectual Property Office Commissioner Lee Insil said in a recent interview with The Korea Herald.

Lee, a former patent attorney at law firm Kim & Chang, took office as the KIPO head on May 31, becoming the first private-sector expert to lead the state agency in its 73 years of history.

As part of efforts to bolster competitiveness of the nation’s IP evaluation system, she pinned high hopes on intellectual property finance that refers to loans and investments companies can get from financial institutions by holding IP assets as collateral.

The concept is a rising trend as companies around the world are investing heavily on securing patents despite their belt-tightening amid widespread fears of an economic slowdown.

The KIPO chief stressed that a better evaluation system for their IP assets would spur both innovation and investment across industries.

“In order for IP finance to be freely utilized by the companies, the nation’s IP evaluation system must be credible and systematic,” she said.

To increase the credibility of the IP evaluation system, Lee said, the agency is planning to establish a new IP evaluation center, an independent body that can investigate the quality of IP assets more objectively, by 2023.

A separate information system is also expected to be set up to better manage IP-related data and prevent fraud cases during the whole review process.

“During a recent general gathering of the World Intellectual Property Organization, countries such as Singapore and Chile showed interest in South Korea’s vision for IP finance. We expect to carry out joint projects to promote cooperation in the field,” she said.

Based on the increased credibility, the agency plans to expand financial support for companies, with its IP-related funding programs reaching a combined 7.5 trillion won ($5.75 billion) this year.

An IP investment fund, which collects equities from institutional investors, will be increased to 250 billion won by 2023, giving a big boost to IP-related investments in the private sector.

Financial burden for IP application is also expected to be relieved as the agency would cover part of the costs. As a result, the number of evaluated cases will be increased to 2,500 cases this year from last year’s 1,943.

Tax benefits will be further extended as small- and medium-sized companies are able to get tax deductions on their IP-related assets.

The KIPO commissioner also stressed the agency’s role in bolstering the competitiveness of the nation’s crucial semiconductor industry.

The agency is expected to speed up the review process of chip-related patents, with the period being reducing to 2.5 months from 12.7 months.

The agency also plans to hire retired technical experts as KIPO patent examiners, which it hopes to help ease an outflow of manpower in the industry.

“Because a mass retirement of highly experienced technology experts is expected to come in the near future, there are growing concerns about talent outflow. We hope the new measure could help relieve such concerns,” she added.

KIPO also plans to use artificial intelligence technology to upgrade the nation’s IP evaluation system, which would greatly help reduce the review process while improving accuracy overall.

“As a private expert took office as the commissioner of KIPO for the first time in 73 years, I feel a heavy responsibility. I will do my best to meet the expectations of the people,” said Lee. 

By Lee Yoon-seo & Lee Kwon-hyoung ( (