Law & Practice

SOUTH KOREA: Building an Infrastructure for Digital IP

Published: April 7, 2021

Seoung Soo Lee Kim & Chang Seoul, South Korea

Soohoon Lee Kim & Chang Seoul, South Korea

Nayoung Kim Kim & Chang Seoul, South Korea


Jong Yoon Kim Shinsegi Patent Law Firm Seoul, South Korea

The Korean Intellectual Property Office (KIPO) recently announced its Digital Intellectual Property Innovation Strategy as a response to the expanding digital economy and society, as well as the rapid development of various contactless industries due to COVID-19.

The global pandemic has led to an explosion of digital intellectual property (IP), which made clear that the related laws in South Korea needed to evolve in order to adapt to the new types of digital IP and provide much-needed protection.

Both artificial intelligence (AI) and data are critical elements in the creation of IP, but the related laws in South Korea are either unclear or nonexistent when it comes to digital IP. For instance, there is a lack of guidance on the extent and scope of copyrighted works that can be used to create and develop AI and on ways to protect AI-created works or data culled through substantial effort and investment. This uncertainty was perceived to have caused a prohibitive effect on the use of AI and data.

KIPO’s Digital Intellectual Property Innovation Strategy, announced on February 23, is aimed at tackling these issues. Among the proposed policies are an overhaul of IP laws to enhance data utilization, setting a systematic guide for increasing the creation and distribution of AI-generated works, and providing corresponding protection. It also includes a policy for strengthening the protection of new types of digital IP, such as the prevention of infringement in new digital environments (for example, online transmissions, virtual reality, and augmented reality).

There is also a plan to amend the Korean Trademark Act to include the online transmission and provision of digital products as “use of a trademark,” and to impose an obligation on the online service provider to prevent trademark infringement. There have not yet been specific discussions on an amendment before the Korean National Assembly.

Efforts are also being made within the Korean National Assembly to protect digital IP. Bills to increase the protection of AI-generated works and to promote data creation and use were both brought before the National Assembly in February, but the timeline for debate or a vote on the bills is unclear.

All of these efforts by the Korean government and legislature to create and protect digital IP are expected to pave the way for a robust and competitive digital industry.

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