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KIPO Establishing Traditional Food Database

Issued: August 01 2011

The Korean Intellectual Property Office (KIPO) will establish a database of traditional food in order to prevent biopiracy of Korean traditional food by global multinational companies and to develop the Korean food industry and globalize Korean food, says Byeong Kee Jeon, a lawyer at Central International Law Firm in Seoul.

“By the end of this year, the KIPO will prove the historicity and superiority of Korean traditional food by establishing a database of historical research materials and patent information regarding the methods for producing more than 3,000 kinds of traditional food such as kimchi, bibimbap, and sikhye,” Jeon says.

Acquisitions of patents on Korean traditional food and cases of commercial use of native genetic resources (biopiracy) by global multinational companies have occurred frequently from the early 20th century to recent times, Jeon says.

By way of illustration, Jeon notes that the Swiss food company Nestlé obtained patent rights in fourteen countries, excluding Korea, by filing a patent for a method for producing food similar to that of kimchi.

Once the database of traditional food is established, it is expected to greatly contribute to the globalization of Korean food and acquisition of certification of the Codex Alimentarius Commission, Jeon says. “Kimchi acquired certification in 2001 after a fierce competition with kimuchi of Japan. However, once ancient writing materials are included in the database, the historicity of Korean traditional food will be automatically proven.”

Although sales in the Korean food industry are US$110 billion, small food companies having fewer than 50 employees account for more than 90% of the Korean food industry. It is expected that these small food companies will more actively use the database in developing functional food and commercializing traditional fermented food.


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