SEOUL, Dec. 13 (Korea Bizwire) – Protection measures for Korean brands in challenging intellectual property landscapes including China and ASEAN countries are being prepared, according to the Korean government, which recently announced its comprehensive countermeasures for protecting Korean brands in the global market.
According to the Korean Intellectual Property Office, the number of trademark applications by Korean companies in China is wholly insufficient, despite the fact that it is requisite to protect Korea’s brands in the country. The volume of Korean exports to China has far outpaced other countries, but its patent application rate ranks seventh among other export nations. A total of 21.4 trademarks per $100 million of export from the United States were published in China, compared to 10.4 from Japan. However, the number of published trademarks from South Korea stood at only 4.6.
Lack of trademark activity in China usually leaves Korean brands susceptible to trademark squatting by local businesses. A Korean daily supplies manufacturer suffered financial damages worth 5 billion won when its Chinese partner trademarked its brand.
Success in trademark strategies doesn’t always guarantee successful businesses in China, as a lot of copycat products are likely to be circulated. In order to fight against counterfeit items, foreign companies should report detailed damages to local administrative agencies. But it is quite hard for small and medium sized enterprises to go through with the costly process. In Beijing, it costs 12 million to 20 million won to investigate and report the damages.
If foreign enterprises want to receive help from customs offices in China to crack down on bogus items, they must register their intellectual property, which is complex since detailed local knowledge is required. A total of 158 intellectual property records from Korea have been registered, equivalent to one 24th of the U.S. and one eighth of Japan.
“The South Korea-China Free Trade Agreement will encourage Korean companies to actively enter the Chinese market. Lack of brand protection strategies may hold pitfalls that can erode competitive advantages, shrink export volume and dilute brand value,” said the office.
Details on the protection measures are as follows:
A comprehensive support scheme for Korean brand protection will be established. In the scheme, the government educates companies that plan to enter the global market on the importance of trademark application, and supports application processes. KOTRA, the Korea International Trade Association, and related industrial organizations are responsible for the education. IP-DESK and the Regional Intellectual Property Center will help navigate the process as well.
A crackdown support plan for fighting against counterfeit goods will be strengthened. Industrial agencies with expertise in related fields will help victims investigate and report the damage they suffer. Clothing, electronics, cosmetics, food and franchise companies will be the first supported starting next year, as they have already suffered financial losses.
A counterfeit goods embargo strategy implemented by overseas customs offices will be bolstered. Customs offices in each country are going to cooperate with each other to suppress copycat products before they cross the border. In order to do so, the government encourages companies to register their intellectual property with the offices. In particular, Korean customs offices plan to collaborate with offices in China and ASEAN countries to protect K-brand products from being copied by organizing campaigns and seminars.
A systematic approach to protect Korean brands by forming public-private partnerships will also be reinforced. At home, the Presidential Council on Intellectual Property and private organizations plan to work together. A local IP Association consisting of IP-DESK, diplomatic establishments and businesses in local markets will take steps to deal with irregularities abroad.
“The first step we should take to protect our brands is to apply for trademarks in local markets. The protection measures we are going to implement will be a stepping stone to enhance the value of Korean brands,” said Kim Young-min, commissioner of the intellectual property office.
By Veronica Huh (email@example.com)