The Korean Intellectual Property Office recently announced that a total of 80,576 trademark applications were filed in South Korea during the 1st quarter of 2021, which is the greatest number of filings the office had ever received. This is a significant increase of 22% compared to the same period last year. As we can easily notice from the statistics, the KIPO is flooded with an increasing number of trademark applications. Under this scenario, we only can expect a delay in trademark examination due to this increase in the applications.
While the examination period is expected to further increase, a prompt registration would be the most critical issue for applicants. Fortunately, there is an option for those who need a quick registration - to use the expedited examination system.
Applicants who need a quick registration are using the expedited examination system to reduce examination period.
Under local practice, trademark examinations are in principle conducted in order of application date, but an expedited examination has priority over general examination. When an applicant applies for an expedited examination, the KIPO has to decide whether to process the application within 10 days, and examination should begin within 45 days if they decide to proceed. Generally, applicants are able to receive the examination results in two to four months. In 2009 when the expedited examination system was first implemented in South Korea, only 654 requests for expedited examination of trademarks were made. Surprisingly, the number has jumped twelvefold in 2019 by marking 7,595. The skyrocketing number clearly indicates that the demand for a prompter examination has increased dramatically in a decade.
Then how exactly faster can applicants register their trademarks in Korea using the expedited examination system?
How exactly faster is the expedited examination?
In order to figure out how faster the expedited examination system is compared to the regular examination system, we have analyzed data from the last two years. Our data showed that in 2020 the average time to get a registration using the regular system was 11 months while the average time for applications that requested expedited examination was 3.6 months. In other words, there was a time reduction of 68% when going through the expedited examination.
Another interesting fact was the difference in the examination period of 2019 and 2020. While the average time to registration has increased by 1 month from 10 months to 11 months, the average registration time of expedited examination stayed at the 3.6 months level. Although the regular examination period is taking longer due to the surge of trademark applications, the expedited examination period takes only around 3 to 4 months, meaning that applicants will be able to get their final registration 7 to 8 months earlier through expedited examination.
Among the 257,933 trademark cases that were registered in 2020, 2,000 cases have gone through expedited examination and finalized their registration within 120 days. There even were around 150 cases that have successfully registered their trademarks as fast as within 90 days. Given the trend where the number of applications is on a rise and regular examination period is increasing accordingly, expedited examination would be useful especially for applicants who wish to push ahead with their business or resolve a dispute as quickly as possible after filing.