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Recent reports claim that the Korean Intellectual Property Office (KIPO) has decided to up the ante in its drive to protect Korean companies from attacks by NPEs. Statistics reported jointly by KIPO and the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy show that international lawsuits involving Korean companies as defendants have increased significantly over the last year to 210. Of those, 179 were filed by NPEs. Given those numbers, KIPO has announced countermeasures that include providing low-rate loans as well as legal consulting and insurance services to the domestic sector.
The measures being considered by KIPO are targeted towards smaller companies, not the hi-tech giants that typically have their own extensive IP teams already in place, as well as the financial resources to fight cases. Details indicate that KIPO and the Korea Credit Guarantee Fund (KODIT) will now provide guarantees of up to KRW 1 billion to start-ups and SMEs based on their intellectual property assets. KIPO will support the cost of evaluating the IP assets held by these companies while KODIT will guarantee the results of the evaluations so that SMEs will be able to procure funds for commercialising their patents. This is all part of an overall effort to strengthen domestic patent-related capabilities, which in the long run will help these companies protect themselves against NPE activity.
One of the issues that any company faces when dealing with an NPE assertion is that counter-assertion is very rarely a realistic option, so the patents that it owns are almost certainly not going to be of any help. The only options available are either to take a licence or to fight the case. Patent ownership, though, can be an effective tool when the other side in a dispute is an operating company. Despite the newspaper reports, the latter scenario may be the one that KIPO and KODIT are thinking of more. That makes sense when you consider that KIPO is also expanding the avenues available internationally for Korean companies that need IP-related assistance. It is setting up more patent offices in emerging countries and establishing a greater number of IP Desks in partnership with the Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency.
That said, KIPO has specifically attempted to tackle the issue of NPEs in the past. As previously reported, it has been giving detailed thought to this problem for some time now. In 2010 it helped to set up a patent fund, IP Cube Partners, to invest in patent acquisitions. Details about IP Cube’s activities are hard to locate, although “a multi-seven-figure” purchase it made from TeleCommunication Systems in late 2012 did receive a fair bit of coverage, while a quick look on Google Patents reveals it owns a small portfolio in the US.
Patents, IP finance
Interesting to see if Government-backed start-ups and SME's will now attract litigation as there will be cash that can be won in the event of successful litigation - surely not the result aimed for...!!Stephen Potter, Iprova Sàrl on 18 Sep 2013 @ 16:34