Semiconductor Integrated Circuit chip Layout Designs

1. Overview

Under Korea's Semiconductor Integrated Circuit Chip Layout Design Law, the chip layout design ("mask work") of a semiconductor integrated circuit can be protected. Although the administration of this law is under the authority of the Minister of Knowledge Economy , some of the authorities given to the Minister under this law have been delegated to the KIPO. Therefore, most of the administrative matters including the registration of the layout design rights and arbitration for the establishment of compulsory licenses are handled by the KIPO.

2. Conditions for Protection

In order to be protected, the chip layout design must possess originality, and must be formally registered with the KIPO. Application for chip layout design registration must be made within two (2) years from the day of first using the chip layout design for commercial purposes.

3. Period of Protection

The protection period of a chip layout design registration is ten (10) years from the date of registration, but may not exceed ten (10) years from the date on which the registered chip layout design was first used for commercial purposes, and may not exceed fifteen (15) years from the date of creation of the chip layout design.


1. Overview

As of January 1987, the Republic of Korea became a signatory to the Universal Copyright Convention (UCC). Also, with the Republic of Korea becoming a signatory to the Berne Agreement, a revised Korean Copyright Law was enacted (effective from July 1, 1996). Further, to meet the changes of internal and external circumstances, the Korean Copyright ACT has been fully revised and has become effective from June 29, 2007.

2. Copyrights of Foreigners

Copyrights of foreigners are to be protected in Korea in accordance with treaties to which the Republic of Korea has acceded or ratified. The works of foreigners who permanently reside in the Republic of Korea (including the foreign legal persons having their principal office in the Republic of Korea), or foreigners' works which are published in the Republic of Korea (including works published in the Republic of Korea within 30 days after their publication in a foreign country) for the first time shall be protected under the Korean Copyright Act. However, if the foreign country concerned with the foreigners' works protected as the above do not protect the works of the nationals of the Republic of Korea, the protection of foreigners' works may be correspondingly restricted.

As of July 1, 1996, the works of foreigners are protected under the revised Copyright Law irrespective of the date of creation of the work.

3. Exceptions to Copyright Protection for Foreigners

Article 75 of the Copyright Act provides that if a live performance recorded on a phonograph record (disc) intended only for retail purposes is broadcast, compensation must be made to the live performer. foreign performers and phonogram producers may be entitled to recevie remuneration for the broadcasting of their commercial phonograms subject to the principle of reciprocity.

4. Computer and information Technology

Computer programs (software) are not patentable, but can be protected under the copy right act. However, the following specific types of inventions can be patented:

1. an invention which as claimed defines a useful machine or its products, by way of specifying the physical structure thereof (hardware) or a combination of hardware and software; or
2. an invention which as claimed defines an operation(s) of a computer causing a physical transformation of something (manifested as a physical effect), which results in industrial practical usefulness.

Thus, a data structure which is not recorded in a medium readable by a computer is not patentable; however a recording medium in which a program or a data-structure is recorded is patentable as a product invention. A claim merely reciting a numerical formula, a program listing, or a mathematical algorithm is not patentable per se.

Unfair Competition and Trade Secret Protection Act

Korea has enacted an Unfair Competition Prevention Act intended to prevent the commission of unfair business practices in order to maintain order in business transactions. To achieve this purpose, the Act provides that anyone who conducts an unfair practice as defined therein may be ordered by the court to cease such actions and to pay compensation therefor, and may be imprisoned or be levied a fine. In proscribing as unfair competition acts in the nature of "passing off", the Unfair Competition Prevention Act provides a measure of quasi-trademark protection for unregistered yet well known trademarks, and thus complements the Trademark Act. Furthermore, effective from December 15, 1992, provisions were added into the Unfair Competition Prevention Act dealing specifically with the protection of Trade Secrets ("business secrets") in Korea.
The main points of the Unfair Competition Prevention and Trade Secret Protection Act will be briefly described below.

Broader Protection for Well-Known Trademarks

Unfair Competition Prevention and Trade Secret Protection Act prohibits an act of
tarnishing in an unfair manner the distinctive character or reputation of the well-known mark by using a sign identical or similar to another person's name, trade name, trademark, container or package of goods or any other sign which is widely known in Korea or by selling, distributing, importing or exporting the goods with such sign.

However, this provision does not apply to the case where that use is only for non-commercial purpose, or fair use, etc.

Prevention of the use of a trademark without authorization

The use of a trademark, without authorization, by an agent or a representative of the trademark owner residing in the contracting parties of the Trademark Treaty is added to the list of acts of unfair competition.

Plant-related Inventions

To protect new varieties of plants in Korea, there are two separate systems. Korea is a member of the UPOV, thus new varieties of plants are protectable under the Seed Industry Law. The october 1, 2006 amendments to the Korean Patent Act abolished the previously existing requirement for patentable plant invention, i.e., the
"asexual reproduction" requirement, thus The Patent Act protects all novel plants regardless of whether which meets the general patentability requirements. the plant is sexually or asexually reproduced..
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