South Korea

While the rest of the world reeled from the covid-19 pandemic, IP applications in South Korea reached an all-time high. Over 231,000 applications for patents and utility models were filed in 2020, a 3.3% increase from the year before, marking three straight years of growth. E-commerce and healthcare were the two fastest-growing tech domains, each posting growth of more than 8%. The country is going out of its way to show that it is a haven for advanced technologies – in early 2021, the Korean Intellectual Property Office (KIPO) introduced new examination guidelines for AI-related, pharmaceutical and biotechnology inventions. It also signed a business agreement with local tech company Kakao Enterprise to apply AI methods to patent similarity searches. KIPO is also setting up a framework to ensure that AI-generated content is protected, while extending support to small and medium-sized venture companies in digital industries by offering technical assistance and advice on patent portfolio strategy. The Supreme Court may even relax the country’s unusually high inventiveness standards for many life sciences innovations. However, other reform efforts, such as the push for a new evidence gathering mechanism known as ‘K-Discovery’, have stalled amid industry opposition.

Firms: litigation

Firms: prosecution

Firms: transactions

AIP Patent and Law Offices

Since being established in 2003, AIP Patent and Law Offices has quickly made a name for itself on the patent disputes scene, not least due to its seasoned ensemble of patent professionals, who have accrued deep experience in the IP industry as patent examiners and technical advisors. Over the past year, the 17 patent attorneys and lawyers have been kept busy representing domestic pharmaceutical companies in asserting their patent rights against multinational corporations. Founder Soowan Lee used to be a judge at the Korean Supreme Court and the Patent Court of Korea.

Bae, Kim & Lee LLC

Full-service commercial outfit Bae, Kim & Lee LLC shines brightest when it comes to enforcing patent rights and battling it out in the courtroom. Aside from its sizeable patent litigation practice, the prosecution side is growing steadily with Korean companies flocking to the firm for their patent filing needs. After serving as judge in several Korean courts – including the Patent Court and Seoul High Court – Taeck Soo Kwon captains the IP department. He is also the first president of the Korean Intellectual Property Lawyers Association. Another former IP judge, Myung-Kyu Lee dispenses advice to clients in litigation cases involved IP infringement. On the non-contentious front, vice president of Asian Patent Attorneys Association Korea Catherine Eunkyeong Lee helms the chemical and pharmaceutical group.

DARAE LAW & IP LLC

Clients seek out DARAE LAW & IP LLC for its deep bench expertise – from former judges at the Patent Court and Supreme Court to examiners from the Intellectual Property Tribunal and KIPO, the firm has it all. With 20 patent attorneys, the side advises mostly Korean companies on their patent prosecution and litigation needs. After serving as judge in multiple courts, including the Seoul High Court, managing partner Seung-Moon Park now obtains injunctions in patent disputes.

FirstLaw PC 

Claiming a top spot for prosecution, FirstLaw PC provide stellar contentious and non-contentious patent services to a largely multinational clientele. Domestic clients – including notable government-funded research institutions – also take advantage of the 60 patent and trademark professionals’ extensive cross-industry expertise. A former KIPO patent examiner, Seong Ku Jang has accumulated more than 30 years of IP experience and has been leading the firm’s mechanical practice group since 1988. Seasoned patent attorney Hyoun Ja Park excels when it comes to electrical, semiconductor and computer patent prosecution and litigation.

HanYang International

Making its sophomore appearance in the IAM Patent 1000, HanYang International is a “longstanding IP firm that prosecutes patents for a largely Japanese clientele”. Split across two departments in mechanical, electrical and computer technologies, as well as biotech and chemistry, 20 patent attorneys and foreign legal counsel – some of whom bring with them in-house experience – are on standby to ensure that patent rights are always secured. James Yeon-Soo Kim set up the outfit in 1985.

KBK & Associates 

“KBK has a professional team for each specialty area, including patent, utility model, trademark, design, copyright and more, and full experience in business, lawsuit, and negotiations.” A side of 70 talented patent attorneys support clients such as LG Electronics and Facebook on their patent prosecution matters. The firm is also focusing on growing its contentious practice: recently, it hired a Chinese patent expert to work on Chinese litigation and licensing matters. KBK has been consistently ranked as the top Patent Cooperation Treaty filer in South Korea and was involved in the longest-running patent dispute ever before the Supreme Court. Clients appreciate the added value of KBK’s “resident translators, which facilitate translation into English, Chinese and Japanese”. Hyun-Ju Son leads the mobile communication SEP development team and is particularly knowledgeable when it comes to the prosecution of 5G-related technology. Son also advises LG Electronics on patent portfolio expansion strategies.

Kim & Chang 

Kim & Chang sits “in a league of its own” – the only firm in South Korea that merits a gold ranking in both litigation and prosecution, with a spot on the transactions table for good measure. The largest player in the market is home to no fewer than 300 litigation attorneys, patent attorneys and foreign counsel, supported by over 240 patent engineers, paralegals and other support specialists. In-house counsel place inordinate value on a firm that “takes the time to know the business environment in general; understand the needs of clients’ businesses specifically; is able to proactively provide guidance on new legal developments that may have an impact; and serves as a strategic partner overall”. Jay (Young-June) Yang steers the ship as head of the firm’s IP practice, applying his 40-plus years of experience to some of his team’s most high-profile contentious briefs. Duck Soon Chang is one of the first calls for Big Tech giants that find themselves dealing with infringement claims in South Korea’s increasingly active litigation environment. One courtroom highlight from the past year was a series of successful Patent Court appeals on behalf of pharmaceutical behemoth Pfizer related to patent-term extensions – both Yu-Seog Won and Young Kim were instrumental in securing favourable outcomes. Senior litigator Youngsun You led a successful appellate team on behalf of US biotech Genentech in its bid to gain patent protection for a new medical use invention. Kim & Chang is well disposed to support its clients in complex disputes that involve US law, thanks to a roster of foreign counsel highlighted by US attorneys Jay Kim, In Hwan Kim and Chun Yang. Joining them in the rankings this year is Stephen Bang, a foreign legal counsel who practised IP law in the United States after a past career as a start-up founder. “He understood the issues almost immediately but was also very patient and knew how to explain complex concepts in both the patent and legal world very simply so anyone in our business could easily understand,” raves one Silicon Valley client. Electronics and software veteran Man-Gi Paik heads Kim & Chang’s patent prosecution practice, while Mee Sung Shim is another standout patent attorney who operates mainly in the chemical and pharmaceuticals practice.

Koreana Patent Firm (Patent Attorneys & Counselors At Law)

Koreana Patent Firm has a “strong patent prosecution practice” delivered by “highly-qualified patent attorneys who provide top-class services”. While 60 patent attorneys are laser-focused on prosecuting patent applications for foreign companies, the side draws upon its 2011 strategic partnership with full-service law firm Shin & Kim to resolve disputes as well. Senior managing partner Hae Sun Park is a name for the address book. One peer gives a shout out to Seungho Lee: “A very smart and experienced guy who can understand the gist of the issue quickly, Seungho is the best patent practitioner in Korea for patent prosecution matters. He also has the managing skills to handle his team to ensure work is dealt with.”

Lee & Ko 

“Lee & Ko are superb. They are razor-sharp, incisive and work very hard. They deliver excellent work product with Rolls-Royce service, and they are very nice people too.” Long known as one of the top shops for IP litigation in South Korea, Lee & Ko is also growing its team of patent attorneys, with cornerstone prosecution clients including LG Electronics. Managing partner Jae Hoon Kim leads high-profile litigation efforts while captaining a team of more than 100 patent professionals. Overseas associates describe the outfit as a “trusted counsellor”. “They are special because they excel across the board with regard to technical expertise, legal counseling, and communications clarity and timeliness.  Many firms only deliver on one or perhaps two of these criteria.” Senior litigator Young Mo Kwon wins praise for his dedication: “He puts client service as a priority, even coming to the United States during the covid pandemic to assist with critical oral arguments before the Federal Circuit.” Un Ho Kim and Choong Jin Oh are both former judges who excel in contentious matters for blue-chip companies such as Novartis. Experienced in both US and Korean litigation, Hwan Sung Park helps devise “novel strategies focused specifically on issues that provide the client with maximum relief in the most efficient manner.” Another US law expert is John Kim, who previously worked as a Silicon Valley-based partner at Quinn Emmanuel and in-house as an associate general counsel for intellectual property at Samsung Electronics. A new entrant this year is life sciences expert Keum Nang Park – one well known pharmaceutical innovator reports that they are “extremely impressed with the work product produced by Keum Nang Park and her team and by the level of technical knowledge acquired in a very short space of time in a complex technical matter”. Eminent partner Seong-Ki Kim is Lee & Ko’s foremost expert on the prosecution side, working across a range of advanced technologies.

Lee International IP & Law 

Lee International IP & Law Group’s “strong patent prosecution practice” once again lands it a spot in the top tier. Among the most prolific filers in South Korea, the side offers comprehensive IP services and “very sound advice for patent portfolio development as well as litigation and other strategic advice for the Korean market” to a mainly international clientele. “Terry Taehong Kim in particular is extremely knowledgeable about patent matters in the country and is very committed to his clients, always thinking about how best to help them.” Kim’s “expertise in patent matters and understanding of all aspects of Korean prosecution and litigation” impress patent owners, who are beyond satisfied with his “continued support with business guidance in defining patent filing and prosecution strategy. Particularly noteworthy is his readiness to support us in achieving tangible results in striving for optimal IP protection in South Korea.” Meanwhile, Yoon Suk Shin is a trusted ally of biotech, chemistry and pharmaceutical companies, whom she represents before the Korean courts and the KIPO.

Muhann Patent & Law Firm

Taking its second bow in the IAM Patent 1000, Muhann Patent & Law Firm is a voracious “young tiger” that peers have their eye on. Rising quickly with the support of young patent attorneys filing more than 2,000 patent applications annually, the IP boutique dazzles in the fields of electrical, semiconductors and computers, though it also covers mechanical engineering and biotech. A former research scientist at Korea Telecom, managing partner Chang Hoon Lee is most comfortable working with matters in the broadband and wireless communications space.

NAM & NAM 

With “extensive experience in handling patent prosecutions in Korea”, NAM & NAM has developed its expertise since the earliest stages of Korean intellectual property. Clients can rest assured that their intangible assets are handled with the utmost professionalism and sensitivity, given the firm’s ISO27001 and ISO9001 certifications. For many large multinational corporations, the team of nearly 50 patent attorneys – many of whom are headquartered in Europe and the United States – is the obvious choice. After 15 years of working for Qualcomm in California and Samsung in South Korea, managing partner Ben (Beyong-ho) Yuu has returned to NAM & NAM to focus on growing its domestic client base. An invaluable member of the IP strategy group, Sung-wook Kim specialises in electronics, semiconductor and computer software.

Shin & Kim

A substantial full-service outfit with an expansive Asian footprint – it has outposts across Asia in China, Indonesia and Vietnam – Shin & Kim brings to the table four decades of experience in resolving IP disputes. From a former Patent Court judge to a former examiner at the Korea Intellectual Property Tribunal, the firm draws upon a wealth of expertise to deal with a broad range of matters. IP captain Ghyo-Sun Park and patent team helmsman Bo Kyung Lim make a formidable duo in the courtroom. Together, they are representing Gilead Sciences as the only Korean counsel in a multi-jurisdictional, high-stakes patent infringement suit against ViiV Healthcare Company. They also successfully obtained an arbitral award for Helixmith Co Ltd and emerged victorious in a six-year patent invalidation battle for Amosense Co, Ltd against 3M Korea.

Yoon & Lee International Patent & Law Firm 

Major Korean and Japanese companies call on Yoon & Lee International Patent & Law Firm to prosecute some of their most important patent applications in the local market and to direct outbound filings. The side is part of the pool of patent attorney firms engaged by Samsung Electronics, and is active in filing overseas applications for the tech giant. The team warrants especial notice for its work on SEP briefs. In the chemicals space, Yoon & Lee counts top cosmetics brand AmorePacific as a patron. Byeong-Ok Song comes highly recommended for his long experience and international background – recent accounts he has landed include that of local drug maker Boryung Pharmaceutical.

Yoon & Yang IP LLC

Yoon & Yang IP LLC is the IP department of a full-service law firm, drawing upon the expertise of former Patent Court judges and prosecutors to bring patent disputes to a close. Since 2015, it was designated as a technology trade agency by the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy. Once a professor at the Patent Training Institute of the Seoul Bar Association, Wonil Kim now holds multiple leadership positions in the local IP community, serving as a civil affairs mediator in the Patent Court and a legal advisor for the Korea Drug Development Fund.

YOU ME Patent & Law Firm 

Having served Korean companies for 40 years, YOU ME Patent & Law Firm remains top of its game in patent prosecution. Providing “good analysis” to patent drafting and IP infringement, the “responsive” team filed nearly 5,000 patent applications in Korea in 2020 alone, covering another 133 countries for IP filings. Its new branch office in Bundang further caters towards SMEs in the region. Qualified in California and trained in electrical engineering, David Hunjoon Kim has represented clients before Korean courts and the US International Trade Commission (ITC).

YP Lee, Mock & Partners 

Patent prosecution powerhouse YP Lee Mock & Partners draws inspiration from its 36 years of history to prevail as “a leading IP firm whose motto is to be proactive and committed to serving its clients, some of which are Fortune 500 companies”. Little wonder then that it is Samsung’s top choice for patent drafting and filing. Its legion of over 205 IP attorneys and attorneys at law also often collaborate with litigation experts at Yulchon to resolve IP disputes. Trained in aerospace engineering, Jehyun Kim is also knowledgeable when it comes to automotive, display, mechatronics and mechanical engineering.

Yulchon LLC 

The litigators at Yulchon go toe to toe with the very best in the country, acting in some of South Korea’s most make-or-break courtroom disputes. The firm has worked across virtually all industries, but has carved out a name for itself in both the healthcare and semiconductor spaces. A judge for more than 20 years, Jeong Yeol Choe is now one of the market’s most venerable advocates. Samsung Electronics recently turned to Choe to take over on appeal in a high-profile semiconductor dispute with top Korean university KAIST, which eventually settled. Partner Samuel SungMok Lee is a US attorney who previously worked in-house at Samsung and Procter & Gamble – he shines when it comes to counselling foreign clients on Korean IP issues as well as advising Korean clients on cross-border cases. Kyung Ae Yoon makes her IAM 1000 debut this year. With a forte in life sciences, she “identifies a company’s needs proactively and suggests alternatives, making her a highly valuable asset to in-house counsel”. Yulchon also handles a steady stream of transactional work, offering apt guidance on inventor remuneration and licensing arrangements.

Other recommended experts

At Cho & Partners, anti-counterfeiting maven Tae-Yeon Cho also dedicates some of his time to enforcing patent rights for foreign companies. When he is not dispensing advice to Korean corporations on their US patent problems, David Chun is travelling between the Seoul and Silicon Valley offices of Ropes & Gray LLP. Darby Park is an electrical engineer at Dana Patent Law Firm, which often supports government-funded research institutes in their patent protection strategies. The newest addition to the South Korea chapter, Gunhong Park is a founding partner of PI IP Law. Foreign associates shower the “professional, flexible and open-minded” team with praise. “They are very proactive and we can rely on them to think outside the box and deliver an ingenious solution aimed at boosting the client’s business objectives.” From Covington & Burling LLP’s Seoul office, New York and California-qualified Scott Schrader collaborates with DC-based counterparts to advise on International ITC investigations. Drawing upon her biochemistry PhD, Min Son founded Hanol Law Offices, an IP boutique well-known among peers for its expertise in chemistry and biotech, as well as for prosecuting patent applications for Korean pharmaceutical companies. As well as managing Finnegan, Henderson, Farabow, Garrett & Dunner, LLP’s base in Seoul, Charles H Suh is kept busy advising Coupang on its global IP interests.

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 IP 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
  • Yu-Seog Won - Kim & Chang
  • Chun Y Yang - Kim & Chang
  • Youngsun You - Kim & Chang
  • Stephen T Bang - Kim & Chang
  • David Hunjoon Kim - YOU ME Patent & Law Firm
  • Jehyun Kim - YP Lee, Mock & Partners
  • Soowan Lee - AIP Patent and Law Offices
  • Keum Nang Park - Lee & Ko
  • Seung-Moon Park - DARAE LAW & IP LLC
  • Kyung Ae Yoon - Yulchon LLC

Individuals: prosecution

  • Hyoun Ja Park - FirstLaw PC
  • 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
  • Catherine Eunkyeong Lee - Bae, Kim & Lee LLC
  • Chang Hoon Lee - Muhann Patent & Law Firm
  • Man-Gi Paik - Kim & Chang
  • Darby Park - Dana Patent Law Firm
  • Gunhong Park - PI IP Law
  • 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
  • Ben (Beyong-ho) Yuu - NAM & NAM