Trademarks, and Service Marks(Trademark hereinafter) may be protected in the Republic of Korea under the Trademark Act; and for such protection, marks should be registered with the Korean Intellectual Property Office (“KIPO”). The use of a trademark is not a prerequisite for filing an application for the registration of a trademark.
Unregistered marks are not protected under the Trademark Act, although the owner of a well-known or famous mark is given some protection under the Trademark Act by way of preventing others from obtaining a trademark registration for an identical or similar mark. There is no course of action against infringement of a well-known or famous unregistered trademark under the Trademark Act, but an action may be brought under the Unfair Competition Prevention Act.
The Korean Trademark Law is characterized by:
- First-to-File Rule;
- Substantial Examination; and
- Pre-grant Opposition