The Korean Intellectual Property Office (KIPO) has revised the Trademark Examination Guidelines regarding software-related trademarks on December 23, 2020. According to the revised Trademark Examination Guidelines, the use or purpose of software is required to be specified when filing software-related trademark applications. The purpose of this revision is to conform with examination practice in other countries including the United States and to reflect the current market condition in which software-related trademarks are actively used in various industries.
In the past, the KIPO allowed broad descriptions of goods for software-related trademark applications (such as “recorded computer software” and “software for smartphone applications”), thereby granting trademark rights for software for substantially all purposes. However, given that software is practically used for a limited purpose, allowing such broad descriptions restricted competitors from registering similar trademarks for software with different uses.
To address this problem, the Trademark Examination Guidelines were revised such that software-related trademark applications filed on and after January 1, 2021 are required to specify the purpose of the software (e.g., “video games software” or “navigation software”).
The revision also allows the examiners to consider the specific use or purpose of the software in determining the similarity of goods and services relating to software. Examples of allowable and non-allowable descriptions for software are provided below.
[ Examples of Allowable/Non-Allowable Descriptions for Software ]
Computer operating system software
Recorded computer software
Video games software
Software for internet access
Description for software
Software for smartphone applications
Computer software for businesses
Educational software for children
Integrated software packages
* Source: KIPO