The government is working on comprehensive measures to cope with international patent disputes as non-practicing entities (NPEs) are stepping up their offensive against Korean firms.
According to the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy and the Korean Intellectual Property Office (KIPO), the number of such lawsuits Korean companies are engaged in increased 131% from a year earlier to 210 in the first half of this year. 179 out of these were filed by NPEs, whereas the number of patent lawsuits filed by Korean firms stood at just eight.
These days, American patent trolls such as American Vehicular Sciences and Potter Voice Technologies are making an indiscriminate attack on Korean IT firms, convergence products, etc. Samsung Electronics and LG Electronics faced 72 and 41 suits each in the first half of 2013 alone, while Hyundai Motor Company and Kia Motors were sued 19 times during the same period, respectively. “Patent suits revolved around telecoms devices such as smartphones in the past, but they are covering other fields like cars and aircraft more recently,” said an industry insider.
Under the circumstances, the government is preparing countermeasures against foreign patent trolls. Small firms are in desperate need of such support measures, since they are exposed to patent-related attacks without any protection. Major corporations have their own task forces.
The government is planning to provide legal consulting services to more companies, along with financial aid like low-rate loans. In fact, it has provided insurance support for the protection of intellectual property rights, covering up to 70% of the insurance premiums. But the demand has not been fully met due to the ceiling on the budget fixed at approximately 800 million won (US$730,400) a year. “It is a matter for consideration whether or not the government should provide individual companies with their litigation costs, but we’re mulling over how to back up small firms involved in patent lawsuits.”
At the same time, the government is going to expand the channels through which Korean firms can get help abroad. For example, it is setting up more patent offices in emerging countries, while establishing more IP Desks in conjunction with the overseas offices of the Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency (KOTRA) and building a database on patent dispute cases. “We’ll be in closer contact with Korean exporters abroad so that they can have greater access to our advisory services,” said a KIPO representative.
The government founded a new organization as the importance of international cooperation and response by means of cross-border treaties is on the rise, too. Specifically, the tentatively-named Industrial Protection and Cooperation Bureau is going to be set up in KIPO before the end of next month.