Amendments to the Unfair Competition Prevention and Trade Secret Protection Act have expanded the South Korean Intellectual Property Office's (KIPO's) enforcement authority to include dead copy violations. The KIPO recently exercised its new powers for the first time, ordering that Mother Love Inc cease the manufacture and sales of its home meal replacement product. The amendments should benefit small companies which lack sufficient resources to seek effective legal remedies.
The Seoul Central District Court recently granted a preliminary injunction against the sale of a banana-flavoured jelly product on the grounds of dilution, despite the fact that it did not infringe the plaintiff's registered trademarks for dairy products. The court found that the plaintiff's banana-flavoured milk product was a well-known source identifier. As such, the plaintiff had rights to its appearance even for non-milk products.
An important amendment to the Unfair Competition Prevention and Trade Secret Protection Act was recently published. Under the new amendment, infringers that violate the 'dead copy' provision of the act may be subject to imprisonment for up to three years or a fine of up to KRW30 million. By introducing criminal penalties for violations of the dead copy provision, this amendment will make it less arduous and expensive for parties to enforce their rights against infringing products.
The Intellectual Property Office recently amended the Design Examination Guidelines, effective as of January 1 2017. The most notable of the amendments is that the creativity threshold for design registrations has been substantially lowered. Among other things, the amended guidelines make clear that if a product design is composed in a manner that has never been seen in the relevant field, it can be deemed as creative – regardless of whether it is composed of basic shapes or patterns.
New amendments to the Trademark Act recently came into force. Among other things, these comprehensive amendments eliminate the need to have legal standing to file a non-use cancellation action, remove the one-year bar against registering marks similar to expunged marks and clarify the limitations on trademark rights.
The Seoul Central District Court recently issued a decision that substantially strengthens the protection for registered designs. It ruled that a confectionery company's use of similar packaging not only infringed the design holder's registered packaging design, but also violated the dead copy and catch-all provisions of the Unfair Competition Prevention and Trade Secrets Protection Act.
The Seoul Central District Court recently ruled that a shop's general appearance and decorative elements are protectable trade dress under the Unfair Competition Prevention and Trade Secrets Act. This case is significant, as it is the first decision to interpret the catch-all provision of the act and specifically recognise that it protects a store's substantial effort and investment in designing its look and feel.