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Amendments to Trademark Laws

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Mrz 29, 2018 (Newsletter Issue 6/18)
South Korea
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Trademark Examination Guidelines and Classification System Amended

The Korean Intellectual Property Office (KIPO) recently amended its trademark examination guidelines and classification system, effective as of January 1, 2018. The amendments are summarized below.

1. Distinctiveness of 3D Trademarks
The guidelines previously stated that a 3D shape essentially functions as a design and not a source identifier, and that secondary meaning is required to obtain a trademark registration for a 3D shape unless it is combined with a distinctive element. Accordingly, KIPO examiners normally rejected applications for a 3D shape, even if the shape had no intrinsic connection to the designated goods or services.

The above guideline has been replaced with the following guidelines for determining the distinctiveness of 3D marks:
- If a 3D trademark is for the product configuration itself, the distinctiveness of such a mark cannot be admitted except in combination with a trademark element that is distinctive.
- However, if a 3D mark is not for the shape or form of the product itself, and the shape is not common but very unique for such products or services (e.g., a star-shaped bottle for wine), distinctiveness can be admitted.

2. Distinctiveness of University Names
The following guideline has been introduced for determining the distinctiveness of a university name:
A mark which consists only of a famous geographical indication and the term "university" is not distinctive. However, if the combination mark is recognized as a trademark which indicates a specific source in an "education related field," then depending on the length of time the mark has been in use, the extent to which it has been advertised, and the size and nature of the university, secondary meaning can be admitted. The new guideline also states that "education related field" covers not only the provision of lectures, but also other aspects of a university's operations, such as clothing sales, food sales, etc.

3. Change to the Goods Classification System
Some goods were reclassified into other classes to better reflect current market situations and international standards.

The most notable change is that "health functional foods" are now classified in class 5, which is in line with the Nice Classification system, while they were formerly classified based on their ingredients. (Note: This does not affect "health supplementing foods" which are categorized as "general foods" still classified based on their main ingredients.)

More information can be accessed here