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September 1, 2011 Vol. 66 No. 15 Back to Bulletin Main Page

SOUTH KOREA: IP Law Amendments Pursuant to Korea-EU Free Trade Agreement


As of July 1, 2011, the Korea-EU Free Trade Agreement (FTA) went into effect. Pursuant to the Korea-EU FTA, amendments to the Korean Trademark Act (TMA) and the Unfair Competition Prevention and Trade Secret Protection Act (UCPA), as well as to the Customs Tax Act (CTA), have been made.

The main changes consist of provisions regarding the protection of geographical indications (GIs). According to the Korea-EU FTA, 162 EU GIs—such as Chianti, Cognac and Gorgonzola—can be protected. The details of the changes are highlighted below.

No Trademark Registrations Similar or Identical to Protected GIs
The TMA prevents the registration of trademarks similar or identical to GIs for wines, spirits and agricultural products protected under the bilateral or multilateral FTA with Korea or under the Agricultural Product Quality Act.

Third Parties May Not Use Protected GIs
Under the UCPA, a third party may not use protected GIs (a) for any other purpose aside from identifying the true origin; (b) that are translated or transliterated; or (c) that are accompanied by expressions such as “kind,” “type,” “style,” “imitation” or the like, on goods that do not originate from the place indicated by the GI in question. Such activities are defined as unfair competition and subject to civil remedies.

However, there is an exception as long as (1) prior use of the mark began before July 1, 2011, and (2) the mark is recognized by consumers.

Trade in GI-Infringing Goods
The amended CTA expands the scope of border protection beyond registered trademarks and prohibits the importation or exportation of goods that infringe a protected GI under a treaty or agreement.


Although every effort has been made to verify the accuracy of items in the INTA Bulletin, readers are urged to check independently on matters of specific concern or interest.

© 2011 International Trademark Association