South Korea

Last year saw the grant of the two millionth patent by the Korean Intellectual Property Office (KIPO), as well as its one millionth design patent. In response to the South Korean president’s call on the use of patents to break the dominance of chaebol conglomerates and achieve technological sovereignty amid worsening relations with Japan, the KIPO has rolled out a series of policy initiatives to promote IP activities for small and medium-sized enterprises and boost domestic innovation in early 2020. At the same time, US patent litigation for Korean companies is on an upward trend – there has been a 56% increase in cases, especially where NPEs are involved. Domestically, law firms across the board note that the introduction of punitive damages from July 2019 has enabled the amount of damages awarded to potentially treble, which has intrigued clients – a rise in infringement cases is expected.

Firms: litigation

Firms: prosecution

Firms: transactions

AIP Patent and Law Offices

Founded in 2003, AIP Patent and Law Offices has grown quickly with the addition of experienced practitioners, including senior patent examiners and technical advisers. As a “well-known law firm representing both foreign and domestic clients”, its service is marked by “professional advice and conscientiousness”. Market sources consider the side “solid for patent litigation”. Formerly a judge at the Korean Supreme Court and the Patent Court of Korea, founder Soowan Lee now manages the firm.

Bae, Kim & Lee LLC

A top choice for patent lawsuits in South Korea, Bae, Kim & Lee LLC boasts a “strong patent litigation practice” enhanced by fully integrated IP legal services in prosecution and transactions. Given that it covers a wide range of technical fields, it comes as no surprise that the outfit is a favourite among well-known domestic companies and entities for all manners of patent problems. With former IP judges Taeck Soo Kwon and Myung-Kyu Lee sharing the spotlight on the litigation side and Catherine Eunkyeong Lee in charge of the non-contentious patent practice, the firm is well equipped to meet all its clients’ legal needs.

DAE-A International IP & Law Firm

Despite being a relative newcomer to the South Korean patent scene, DAE-A International IP & Law Firm makes its debut this year in the firm prosecution table. On top of “professional advice” and patent prosecution services, the team of young patent attorneys offers IP consultations to domestic clients. Managing partner Bie-Jay Jeong is a name for the address book.

Dana Patent Law Firm

A young player in the domestic patent market, Dana Patent Law Firm joins the firm prosecution table this year. Drawing on the expertise of attorneys who are well versed in patents from years of experience as examiners and judges – including a former chief justice at the Korea IP Tribunal as well as a former head examiner at the KIPO – the outfit offers a range of services from patent prosecution to IP valuation to a primarily domestic clientele. Ge Seungjin is the main contact.

DARAE LAW & IP LLC

Founded by managing partner Seung-Moon Park and Yong Sig Cho, who were the first judges at the Patent Court, DARAE LAW & IP LLC is known for its superb IP bench strength. Not only does it draw upon the combined expertise of former technical examiners and former adjudicators at the Patent Tribunal, the firm recently welcomed another former patent court judge to further beef up its team of 17 patent attorneys and 13 lawyers, which serves as a one-stop shop for protecting patent rights and IP valuation for its predominantly domestic clientele. Seung-Moon has previously served as a judge in multiple courts, including the Seoul High Court, and has successfully obtained injunctions in patent infringement matters.

FirstLaw PC 

Gold-rated patent prosecution firm FirstLaw PC excels in the contentious and non-contentious patent space. A favourite among many big names across industries, especially for its patent drafting and filing services, the outfit has recently expanded into China, where it specialises in the pharmaceutical and chemistry fields. With more than a decade of experience as a patent examiner under his belt, founding partner Seong Ku Jang presides over the set of 60 patent and trademark attorneys. Young Sun Jung leads a team of four trial lawyers in patent infringement actions and invalidation trials on behalf of foreign giants against domestic companies, while Hyoun Ja Park advises on electrical, semiconductor and computer patents.

HanYang International

With a relatively long history in the patent scene, HanYang International Patent and Law Firm makes its way onto the firm prosecution table for the first time this year. Founded in 1985, the side offers the expertise of former in-house counsel from global multinationals, which Korean and Japanese businesses are quick to draw upon for patent prosecution advice. Founder James Yeon-Soo Kim enjoys a “good reputation” among his peers.

KBK & Associates 

Recommended by its foreign associates, KBK Associates makes its debut in the IAM Patent 1000. Thanks to its “professional team of 70 patent attorneys, armed with experience in business, law and negotiation”, the firm has been ranked as the top Patent Cooperation Treaty filer in South Korea for over a decade; it also recently ended the longest-running patent dispute in the Supreme Court for LG Uplus. As well as being a favourite of LG Electronics, KBK also prosecutes patents for Facebook’s technology in e-commerce and has achieved a grant rate that is nearly twice as high as the average. SEP and 5G technology expert Hyun-Ju Son takes charge of SEP matters, especially when it comes to enlarging LG Electronics’ patent portfolio and mining candidate patents for it.

Kim & Chang 

Diverse patent expertise, outstanding reputation and a stellar litigation record are hallmarks of this South Korean behemoth. Kim & Chang lays claim to the highest number of ranked individuals in the South Korea chapter – unsurprisingly, as it is the largest IP offering in the country, with more than 300 lawyers, patent attorneys and foreign legal counsels. This true one-stop service is involved in almost all major IP cases in South Korea for a multitude of top-notch clients, which find its people “clear, direct and timely”. “Communication is crisp, on point and complete. The lawyers are responsive, thoughtful and help us anticipate next steps and achieve success.” The side sets the gold standard for IP firms in the region: “I expect – and have received – from Kim & Chang the highest level of service and expertise, and they have always delivered.” It is also party to landmark decisions, such as the Patent Court’s clarification of drug approvals under the Narcotics Control Act, which was prompted by Kim & Chang’s successful representation of Eisai in five patent-term extension invalidation actions. Jay (Young-June) Yang continues to captain the IP group to ever greater heights. “A very successful leader of the firm’s IP practice and a leader of the Korean IP Bar, Jay is very well connected and my go-to attorney in Korea. His advice is excellent and he knows how to navigate Korean IP law – I give him the highest recommendation.” By his side is gold litigator Duck Soon Chang, who represented Astellas Pharma in the first Supreme Court decision in South Korea to interpret the scope of patent-term extensions. Among the “very warm and welcoming” team is former patent court judge Young Sun You, now a litigator who successfully represented Bunchang ENG in its Supreme Court appeal, while US attorneys In Hwan Kim, Jay Kim and Chun Yang dish out advice on patent disputes to leading multinationals in pharmaceutical matters, the chemical engineering field and multi-jurisdictional negotiations, respectively. Chemical expert Young Kim raked in a significant victory last year at the Supreme Court; she also lectures on intellectual property and serves as an arbitrator. Man-Gi Paik takes the lead in the patent prosecution space, with nearly four decades of IP experience. Mee Sung Shim makes her first appearance in the IAM Patent 1000 this year on the back of effusive client feedback: “She is an all-round player in the pharmaceutical sector. Her advice is always very precise and reliable because she understands our business and intentions, as well as our opponents.”

Koreana Patent Firm (Patent Attorneys & Counselors At Law)

For half a century, Koreana Patent Firm has honed its patent filing and drafting skills to blossom into a strong prosecution outfit entrusted with patent rights protection by foreign companies. Through its 2011 strategic partnership with Shin & Kim, the team of 60 patent attorneys and engineers further bolsters its offering with litigation services. “Responsive and very knowledgeable in patent matters”, senior managing partner Hae Sun Park is one to have on speed dial.

Lee & Ko 

Gold rated in litigation and not to be underestimated in non-contentious patent matters either, Lee & Ko “provides exemplary services by effectively addressing different legal issues”. “Not only does the firm consistently provide answers to our inquiries in a professional manner, it is well aware of market trends and offers relevant expertise for understanding and analysing our technology.” In addition to boasting an A-list of blue-chip companies across industries in its client portfolio, Lee & Ko was recently selected by LG Electronics as a principal prosecution firm for new patent applications in cutting-edge technologies. Under managing partner Jae Hoon Kim’s leadership, the IP team has grown and is now replete with patent experience, including more than 30 patent attorneys, former KIPO examiners and judges of the Patent Court and the IP division of the Supreme Court. One happy client praises the side for its “detailed knowledge and experience in handling IP matters, having successfully addressed many legal issues and provided competent representation in a range of patent problems”. Among the lawyers based there is “the best patent litigator in Korea”, Young Mo Kwon. With “immense experience in global patent disputes for over 30 years” under his belt, Kwon is currently defending Novartis in a patent invalidation challenge. A “very responsive” master of US IP litigation proceedings, Hwan Sung Park is kept busy representing Hanwha Q Cells in a global patent infringement suit. Un Ho Kim and Choong Jin Oh bring their judicial experience to the courtroom – Kim is representing Ericsson-LG Co in a patent infringement action against the Seoul National University R&DB Foundation, while Oh recently obtained a landmark decision in the Seoul Central District Court on behalf of Bristol Myers. “Well known in IP circles for his broad knowledge and over 30 years of practice in intellectual property”, Seong-Ki Kim takes the lead in the prosecution space; he is ably backed by Samsung’s former in-house counsel John Kim, who brings up the rear as the go-to counsel for high-stakes cross-licensing deals.

Lee International IP & Law Group 

Rising to the top of the prosecution table on the back of effusive client and market feedback, Lee International IP & Law Group is one of the biggest patent filers in South Korea. For nearly four decades, it has been filing patents for a predominantly foreign clientele at an excellent grant rate, supported by a high-quality international management system that runs like a well-oiled machine. Satisfied long-term customers around the world praise the side’s “very good performance with reasonable pricing”. “Besides having excellent English, the firm is excellent at reporting on office actions and proposing responses.” Not to be outdone by the prosecution team, the legal department makes its mark in the litigation table this year for its growing contentious work. Terry Taehong Kim leads a “highly motivated” IP department of 65 patent attorneys covering a broad spectrum of technical fields. While Kim advises global names such as InterDigital and IBM, Yoon Suk Shin prosecutes patents for biotech and chemistry companies – she recently secured a patent for Universal Display Corporation at the KIPO.

Muhann Patent & Law Firm

“The perfect IP firm for any type of IP help you would need in Korea” makes its premiere in the IAM Patent 1000 this year. “A very young law firm” established only 18 years ago, Muhann Patent & Law Firm has grown swiftly into a dynamic team of 51 professionals. Peers praise the team for being “motivated” and “energetic”, and describe it as making up “a strong prosecution practice, especially on behalf of domestic companies”, including Korea Airports Corporation and the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology. An expert in communication systems and software, managing partner Chang Hoon Lee has contributed to building a “good reputation” for the side.

NAM & NAM

“Strong patent prosecution practice” NAM & NAM proudly claims the longest history in the South Korean IP field. With nearly 50 patent attorneys and strict quality management systems, it is unsurprisingly the first choice for big foreign filers, many of which are multinational giants headquartered in Europe and the United States – including a US market leader in SEPs with which the ISO 9001-certified firm has enjoyed a three-decade-long relationship. After a 15-year stint at Qualcomm in California and Samsung in South Korea, Ben Yuu returns to manage the outfit and grow its domestic clientele. Over in the IP strategy group, semiconductor and software expert Sung-wook Kim has been busy negotiating deals for Korean entities.

Shin & Kim

Shin & Kim is a massive full-service law firm that brings expansive experience in IP transactional and advisory work to the table; growing its Asian footprint, it recently added an Indonesia desk in a strategic partnership with AKSET. With more than 70 attorneys and patent attorneys on hand, the outfit shines particularly bright when it comes to dispute resolution and enforcement by drawing on the expertise of former South Korean court judges, while also prosecuting more than 1,200 patent cases and 800 overseas patent applications annually. For contentious commercial IP matters, Ghyo-Sun Park is the one to look for, with Bo Kyung Lim excelling when it comes to in settling IT-related disputes.

Yoon & Lee International Patent & Law Firm 

A specialist in patent prosecution, Yoon & Lee International Patent & Law Firm celebrates its 30th anniversary this year. Not only do domestic companies seek out the team of 33 patent attorneys to resolve global patent issues, the Korea Electronics Technology Institute has now added the patent firm to its pool of representatives. Founder Dong Yol Yoon just completed his term as the president of the Intellectual Property Forum in South Korea, while optics specialist Byeong-Ok Song can call on nearly three decades of experience in the patent field to deftly dispatch disputes before the Patent Court.

Yoon & Yang IP LLC

The IP arm of a full-service law firm, Yoon & Yang IP LLC offers the complete range of IP services to ensure that its clients’ patent rights are protected from the cradle to the grave. Its ensemble of 66 patent professionals – including former patent court trial judges and technical examiners – dazzles in the contentious space. The side has also been designated as a technology trade agency by the government since 2015. A fervent contributor to major IP publications, Wonil Kim has a track record of representing big-name clients in high-profile lawsuits.

YOU ME Patent & Law Firm

Topping the prosecution table for yet another year, YOU ME Patent & Law Firm is one of the top choices for Korean companies looking to protect their patents. To this end, it recently opened a new branch in Bundang to cater to more local small and medium-sized enterprises in the region. Not only are the lawyers “responsive and provide good analysis” on all sorts of patent matters in every sector, they also have multiple teams operated by fluent speakers of French, German, Japanese and Chinese. Sukheum Kwon counsels on prosecuting patents in life sciences and chemistry, while California-qualified lawyer David Hunjoon Kim provides opinions on patent infringement and enforcement.

YP Lee, Mock & Partners 

“A leading IP firm with a motto to be proactive and committed to serving its clients”, YP Lee, Mock & Partners has served Korean companies for 35 years and remains top of its game in patent prosecution. As an ensemble of 181 patent attorneys, the largest IP law firm in South Korea is a prosecution heavyweight, particularly when it comes to drafting SEP applications in the communications space. It also boasts a strong translation team of 40, whose members cover three languages, as well as a large Japanese client team. Aerospace engineer Jehyun Kim is the main point of contact for foreign companies filing in the country.

Yulchon LLC 

One of the big four law firms in South Korea and armed to the teeth with top-notch bench experience, Yulchon excels in the patent contentious space and win plaudits because it is “friendly to its clients, specialises in their specific areas and will help you win your case”. The full-service law outfit is recognised by foreign associates for its litigation prowess not just in South Korea but in the United States as well – as one market source points out: “They have attorneys experienced in both US and Korean litigation, which makes working with them easier.” The side’s expertise spans industries, with another market source extolling its strength in the life sciences – Yulchon serves as counsel for major healthcare companies such as GSK Korea and Celltrion. To keep abreast of new developments and assist clients in complex transactions involving emerging technologies, the firm recently established its New Industry IP Team. Although the IP department of 28 professionals has lost former patent court judge Dong Soo Han to the prosecutor’s office, captain and seasoned litigator Jeong Yeol Choe ensures that the team remains on top form. A courtroom sharpshooter and a regular opponent of other gold-ranked litigators, Choe rises to the coveted top spot this year. Lately, he has been involved in representing HiCon against Dallas-based Plastronics in a high-damages patent infringement suit in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Texas. US attorney Samuel SungMok Lee brings his experience as Samsung Electronics’ senior legal counsel to the negotiation table. He is often party to multi-million-dollar deals on behalf of South Korean entities.

Other recommended experts

Star litigator Tae-Yeon Cho of Cho & Partners brings his top-notch expertise in trademarks to the patent space, where he represents patent owners in high-value matters against Korean companies. Splitting his time between the Seoul and Silicon Valley bases of Ropes & Gray LLP, David Chun represents Korean conglomerates in US patent disputes. Eun-sub Jung, the founder of AJU Kim Chang & Lee, has been prosecuting patents for domestic clients for more than three decades. Jong Han Kim chairs the Seoul office for Paul Hastings LLP. “Highly recommended” for US patent work, he has been representing Samsung throughout most of his 30-year career in intellectual property and currently acts as their relationship partner between Korea and US prosecution and litigation proceedings. “As leader of fully dedicated and highly skilled team that is very knowledgeable about us and our needs and always responsive, Jong Han is our trusted counsellor. We look to his guidance and advice.” Chang Sik Kim and Scott Schrader of Covington & Burling LLP liaise with DC-based International Trade Commission (ITC) litigation specialists to defend clients in US contentious matters. Recommended by foreign associates for being “good in patent prosecution and litigation”, Hanol Law Offices founder Min Son joins the IAM Patent 1000 this year. Taking charge of Finnegan, Henderson, Farabow, Garrett & Dunner, LLP’s Seoul outpost, Charles Suh litigates before the US district courts and ITC on behalf of Korean companies.

Individuals: litigation

  • Duck Soon Chang - Kim & Chang
  • Jeong Yeol Choe - Yulchon LLC 
  • Jae Hoon Kim - Lee & Ko
  • Young Mo Kwon - Lee & Ko
  • Jay (Young-June) Yang - Kim & Chang
  • Tae-Yeon Cho - Cho & Partners 
  • David Chun - Ropes & Gray LLP
  • Chang Sik Kim - Covington & Burling LLP
  • In Hwan Kim - Kim & Chang
  • Jay J Kim - Kim & Chang
  • John Kim - Lee & Ko
  • Jong Han Kim - Paul Hastings LLP
  • Un Ho Kim - Lee & Ko
  • Wonil Kim - Yoon & Yang LLC
  • Young Kim - Kim & Chang
  • Taeck Soo Kwon - Bae, Kim & Lee LLC
  • Myung-Kyu Lee - Bae, Kim & Lee LLC
  • Samuel SungMok Lee - Yulchon LLC
  • Bo Kyung Lim - Shin & Kim
  • Choong Jin Oh - Lee & Ko
  • Ghyo-Sun Park - Shin & Kim
  • Hwan Sung Park - Lee & Ko
  • Scott Schrader - Covington & Burling LLP
  • Charles H Suh - Finnegan, Henderson, Farabow, Garrett & Dunner, LLP
  • Young Sun Jung - FirstLaw PC
  • Chun Y Yang - Kim & Chang
  • Young Sun You - Kim & Chang
  • David Hunjoon Kim - YOU ME Patent & Law Firm
  • Jehyun Kim - YP Lee, Mock & Partners
  • Soowan Lee - AIP Patent and Law Offices
  • Seung-Moon Park - DARAE LAW & IP LLC

Individuals: prosecution

  • Hyoun Ja Park - FirstLaw PC
  • Eun-sub Jung - AJU Kim Chang & Lee
  • James Yeon-Soo Kim - HanYang International
  • Jehyun Kim - YP Lee, Mock & Partners
  • Seong-Ki Kim - Lee & Ko
  • Sung-wook Kim - NAM & NAM
  • Terry Taehong Kim - Lee International IP & Law Group
  • Seong Ku Jang - FirstLaw PC
  • Sukheum Kwon - YOU ME Patent & Law Firm
  • Catherine Eunkyeong Lee - Bae, Kim & Lee LLC
  • Chang Hoon Lee - Muhann Patent & Law Firm
  • Man-Gi Paik - Kim & Chang
  • Hae Sun Park - Koreana Patent Firm (Patent Attorneys & Counselors At Law)
  • Mee Sung Shim - Kim & Chang
  • Yoon Suk Shin - Lee International IP & Law Group
  • Hyun-Ju Son - KBK & Associates
  • Min Son - Hanol Law Offices
  • Byeong-Ok Song - Yoon & Lee International Patent & Law Firm
  • Dong Yol Yoon - Yoon & Lee International Patent & Law Firm
  • Ben Yuu - NAM & NAM