APAA e-Newsletter (Issue No. 22, April 2021)

KIPO Applications Reached All-time High in 2020

Sun-Keun Yoon, Kim & Chang (Korea)

In 2020, the number of applications filed in Korea for intellectual property rights (IPR) such as patents, trademarks and designs reached a record high of 557,229, which is an increase of 9.1% over 2019 (the largest increase since 2006).  Thus, efforts to obtain rights to intangible assets in Korea actually increased despite the global economic recession caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

A breakdown of trends according to the type of rights, applicant, and industry is as follows.


257,993 applications were filed for trademarks (increase of 16.4% over 2019), 231,740 applications for patents and utility models (increase of 3.3%), and 67,556 applications for designs (increase of 3.9%).


Small and medium-sized businesses showed a higher rate of increase compared to those of large businesses and foreigners, indicating that they may be improving their competitiveness in preparation for the post-COVID 19 era.


  •  Patent
  • 10,407 applications were filed in e-commerce (increase of 8.4%), 9,983 applications in healthcare (increase of 8.1%), 4,380 applications in medicine (increase of 4.8%), and 4,556 applications in biotechnology (increase of 2.7%).  These numbers reflect the proliferation of the digital economy, and the growing interest in the fields of healthcare and hygiene.

  • Design
  • With 3,903 applications filed for household health and hygiene products (increase of 125.9%), this also appears to confirm a high interest in hygiene-related industries.

  • Trademark
  • Other than 8,391 applications filed for medical devices (increase of 42.7%) and 14,530 applications for pharmaceuticals (increase of 31.3%), broadcasting and telecommunication services, and electronics and audio/visual devices also recorded high increases – 7,998 applications (increase of 37.3%) and 26,865 applications (increase of 18.0%) filed respectively. This may reflect an increase in personal broadcasting channels such as YouTube.


The increase in the number of applications filed seems to be related in part to recent changes KIPO is implementing to reinforce the Korean IPR enforcement system. Such changes include the adoption of punitive damages for IPR infringement in Korea, and the expansion of the authority of the Special Judicial Police within KIPO to investigate patent, trade secret, and design infringement in addition to trademark infringement, etc.