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International Patent Applications Show Huge Growth Over Past 20 Years

Issued: March 04 2014

South Korea received 12,439 international patent applications in 2013, a 4.8% growth rate year-on-year. It is the first time the number has surpassed 12,000 since Korea became party to the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) in 1984. 


As applications are processed in accordance with the PCT, it is only necessary to file one international application with a receiving office for it to have the same effect as being simultaneously applied for in all member states of the PCT (148 countries as of February 2014). 

To put this in perspective, it represents an almost hundredfold increase from the 128 applications filed in 1993. Thanks to such growth, Korea is forecast to maintain its top five position in global PCT applications, which it has achieved since 2010. The top five countries are the United States, Japan, China, Germany, and Korea, with the other four countries yet to disclose their 2013 records. 

The growth in international patent applications competitive enough to compete in the global market and rise of patent applications surpassing 200,000 in Korea last year are expected to function as a driving force that will lead Korea’s creative economy. 

Samsung Electronics topped the list in 2013 with 1,328 PCT applications, trumping LG Electronics with PCT 1,225 applications. LG Electronics previously topped the list for seven consecutive years from 2006 to 2012. They were followed by LG Chem (third), Cheil Industries (fourth), and LG Innotek (fifth). Three state research institutes, including Korea Institute of Energy Research (sixth), the Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute (ninth), and Korea Institute of Industrial Technology (eleventh) ranked among the top eleven, standing shoulder-to-shoulder with major Korean conglomerates. 

Meanwhile, Korea posted an 11.8% growth rate year-on-year with 616 international trademark applications through the Madrid international trademark system. 


Submitting one international trademark application has the effect of being simultaneously applied for in the member states of the Madrid Protocol (92 countries as of February 2014). 

Hyundai Motors topped the list as the most active trademark applicant with 44 international applications. Seven small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) were among the top ten, including Harim Holdings (20 applications, ranked second) and Korloy (16 applications, ranked third), showing that SMEs are making good use of the Madrid system due to its convenience and economy. 

“International patents and trademarks are important intellectual property indexes that show Korea’s technological and brand competitiveness in the global market,” said Director-General Choi Gyu-wan of KIPO’s Information and Customer Service Bureau. “KIPO will work hard to improve international application systems and hold tour briefings to allow the trend for growth to continue.”