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Trademarks, and service (Trademark hereinafter) marks may be protected in the Republic of Korea under the Trademark Act; and for such protection, marks should be registered with the Korean Intellectual Property Office ("KIPO").

The use of a trademark is not a prerequisite for filing an application for the registration of a trademark. Unregistered marks are not protected under the Trademark Act, although the owner of a well-known or famous mark is given some protection under the Trademark Act by way of preventing others from obtaining a trademark registration for an identical or similar mark.

There is no course of action against infringment of a well-known or famous unregistered trademark under the Trademark Act, but an action may be brought under the Unfair Competition Prevention Act.
The Korean Trademark Law is characterized by :
⒜  First-to-File Rule ;
⒝  Substantial Examination
⒞  Pre-grant Opposition


Ⅰ) Applicant
Any person who uses or intends to use a trademark in the Republic of Korea may file an application for the registration of a trademark.

Although the Korean Trademark Act adopts a registration system, not a use system, the applicant of a trademark application should have a bona fide intent to use his trademark in the Republic of Korea.

Nonetheless, trademarks which will not actually be used are also registered. Such trademarks, however, will be subject to cancellation if they remain unused for three or more consecutive years after their registration.

Ⅱ) Document Required
For a trademark application, the following documents should be submitted to KIPO:
⒜  an application stating the following: the name and address of the applicant (including the name of an
     executive officer, if the applicant is a juristic person); the trademark; the designated goods and class
     thereof; the date of submission; and the country and filing date of the priority application, if the right of
     priority is claimed;
⒝  10 specimens of the trademark (7cm x 7cm or smaller in size);
⒞  if the right of priority is claimed, the priority document; and
⒟  a power of attorney, if necessary.

Only document (a) must be submitted at the time of filing the trademark application. The name of an executive officer of the applicant may be added later on the applicant's own initiative or in response to a notice of amendment issued from KIPO.

If the applicant fails to submit specimens of the trademark or power of attorney at the time of filing the trademark application, KIPO will issue a notice of amendment requesting the applicant to submit them, designating a time limit therefor. The priority document must be submitted within 3 months from the filing date in the Republic of Korea of the trademark application. This time limit cannot be extended.

Ⅲ) Designation of Goods/Services: Nice Classification
A person who desires to file a trademark application must designate goods/services on which the trademark is to be used in accordance with the Nice Classification of Goods or Services for the Purpose of Registration of Marks. The Republic of Korea adopted the Nice Classification as of March 1, 1998.
A trademark application may be filed for the registration of trademark for goods or services which fall under several classes in accordance with the Nice Classification. In this case, the applicant has to pay additional fees for each classification.

Ⅳ) Claim of Priority
The right of priority can be claimed in a trademark application for a applicant whose country of origin is a party to the Paris Convention or under a bilateral agreement between two relevant governments or on a reciprocal basis. In order to enjoy the priority right, an application should be filed in the Republic of Korea within 6 months from the filing date of the priority application. The priority document should be submitted to KIPO within 3 months from the filing date of his/her application.

According to Article 2(1) of the Enforcement Regulation of the Trademark Act, the application will be returned to the submitter without any application number being assigned thereto and will be treated as if it had never been submitted in any of the following circumstances:


where the kind of the application is not clear;
where the name or address of a person (or juridical person) who takes the procedure (i.e., the applicant) is not described;
where the application is not written in Korean;
where a specimen of the trademark is not attached to the application paper;
where the designated goods/services are not described in the application paper; or
where the application is submitted, by a person who has no address or place of business in the Republic of Korea, without coming through a patent agent in the Republic of Korea.

Once the application has satisfied such requirements, KIPO assigns an application number and examines as to whether or not other formality requirements under the Trademark Act have been met. If anything is found missing or wrong, the Commissioner of KIPO will issue a notice of amendment requesting the applicant to supplement the missing data or amend it, and within specified a time limit. If the applicant does not comply with such request, the trademark application will be nullified.


Ⅰ) Initiation of Examination
Unlike patent or utility model applications, trademark applications are automatically examined in order of their filing date. No request for examination is needed for the initiation of substantial examination.

Furthermore, the Trademark Act does not provide for the expedited examination system which is available for patent, utility model and design applications.

The examination of a trademark application generally takes about 1 year from its filing date.

Ⅱ) Requirement for Registration
For a trademark to be registered under the Trademark Act, it should meet the following requirements:
⒜  It should fall under the definition of a trademark prescribed in the Trademark Act:
⒝  It should be distinctive so as to serve as an indication of goods or services or, if it is not inherently
     distinctive, it should have acquired a secondary meaning;
⒞  It should not fall into any of the categories of unregistrable trademark prescribed in the Trademark Act.

In addition to the reason for rejection, an opposition against the application can be filed by the owner of a trademark registered in the territory of a member country of a treaty to which the Republic of Korea has acceded, if both the trademark and the designated goods of the application are identical with, or similar to, those of the foreign trademark registration and if the application is filed by a person who is, or used to be, an agent or a representative of the owner of the registered trademark within 1 year prior to the filing date of the application concerned without obtaining the authorization or consent from the owner of the registered trademark.

If the examiner finds no ground for rejection of a trademark application, or he considers that the rejection has been overcome by the applicant's response (argument and/or amendment), he shall render a decision to publish the trademark application.

Once a trademark application is published in the official gazette, called the "Trademark Publication Gazette," any person may file an opposition within 30 days from the publication date. The thirty-day period cannot be extended. A notice of opposition containing a brief statement on the grounds for opposition must be submitted within the thirty-day period. Then, the opponent may amend, add or supplement the grounds for opposition within 30 days after the expiration of the thirty-day period.

Rejection, Registration, Appeal and Trial procedure is same with those of patent.

The duration of the protection of a trademark right is 10 years from the date of registration of the trademark, which may be renewed every 10 years. For the renewal of a trademark registration, an application for the renewal should be filed with KIPO. Once a renewal application has been duly filed, the trademark registration is deemed to have been renewed on the expiration date of the original registration.