People and places

In-depth Features

South Korea, one of the world’s leading brands when it comes to innovation, has retained an extremely competitive legal market thanks to that reputation. The Korean Intellectual Property Organization (KIPO) receives nearly 500,000 IPR filings annually, including nearly equal numbers of patents and trademarks, each totaling a bit more than 200,000 in 2019, with utility models and designs making up the balance. In 2019, a total of 493,531 applications were received across all types. Patent Cooperation Treaty applications reached histor-ic highs in 2019 as well, nearly 20,000 after a 5.2 percent year-on-year increase.


Despite high numbers of applications, KIPO manages to maintain a quick examination process of most applications. In 2019, the average first office action pendency for patents and utility models reached just 10.8 months, while trade-marks took 6.8 months to complete and designs 5.4 months.


The legal market itself is becoming more competitive by the year. In the not-too-distant past, a trip to interview lawyers in Seoul consisted of visiting two or three big firms, a handful of second-tier firms and then having plenty of free time to knock back a few bottles of soju and eat kimchi and barbecued meat. Take a look at Seoul’s legal market today, and you’ll see many boutique and specialist firms nipping at the heels of the big dogs. It makes for a more interesting visit, but one that sadly allows for less time wandering Seoul’s back streets looking for the perfect samgyeopsal-gui, or grilled pork belly.


• • •


AIP Patent & Law Firm was founded by Soowan Lee when he retired from his judgeship at the Korean Supreme Court. The firm’s patent attorneys have in-depth experience in various technical fields, including mechanics, electron-ics, electricity, telecommunications, information technology, chemistry and bio-technology.


Based in Seoul, AJU Kim Chang & Lee handles various IP matters related to the fields of chemical and bio, mechanical, electronics, and trademark and design. The firm also takes care of IP and business litigation as well as corporate and other matters. Patent attorney He-lin Lee is a key contact.


Headed by Hoodong Lee, Bae, Kim & Lee’s IP practice provides services such as mediation, arbitration, litigation, invalidation and revocation of trial de-cisions relating to patents, utility models, trademarks, designs, copyright and trade secrets. Partners Junghi Park and Myung Kyu Lee are key contacts.


Barun IP & Law provides a one-stop IP shop for clients, and a strategic alliance with full-service sister firm Barun Law. Hohyun Nahm is the firm’s lead partner; he has worked to protect some of the world’s best-known brands, in-cluding Nike, Esprit, Jimmy Choo, Elégance, Lady Gaga and the British Royal Chief Designer’s brand Hardy Armies. He helped Japanese anime director Hayao Miyazaki protect lyrical and allusive works. The firm also boasts solid relations with government executives at KIPO, the Korea International Trade Association (KITA), the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism (MCST), the Korea Food & Drug Administration (KFDA) and others.


Won Son and Seung-Yun Yeom are managing partners at C&S Patent and Law Office. The firm has been in existence since 1969; today, it has more than 45 patent attorneys and 100 professional staff members. The firm handles contentious and non-contentious work, includ-ing applications and registrations, patent search and analysis, and IP consulting.


Central Intellectual Property & Law, formerly Central International Law, is led by president Hoon Chang. Chang leads an experienced team of attorneys-at-law, patent and trademark attorneys, US-li-censed attorneys, former KIPO examiners and judges as well as foreign consultants who provide advice on prosecution, regis-tration, enforcement, maintenance, litiga-tion and technology transactions, among others.


Named Asia IP trademark firm of the year for South Korea in 2020, Cho & Partners is a favourite among luxury fashion and high-end retail brands; it also has top clients in the electronics industry. Tae-Yeon Cho is one of Asia’s lead-ing IP lawyers, and Ik-Hyun Seo is experienced in both American and Korean IP litigation and prosecution work. Attorney-at-law Yoon-Kyung Anne Kim, is recommended for negotiating and drafting licensing, franchising, joint venture and distribution agreements as well as overseeing the development of internet and e-commerce initiatives.


Dentons Lee possesses long experience in handling IP matters in the ju-risdiction. The firm consists of former judges, prosecutors and senior foreign attorneys and they are supported by a large number of advisors who are for-mer high-level government officials and industry leaders. Key contacts such as Andrew Park and Emma Park offer prosecution, search, adjudication, litigation, advice, consultation and renewal services.


Darae Law & IP Group’s top practitioners include managing partner Jeong-Youl Yoon and Seung-Moon Park, who lead a strong team to provide both prosecution and contentious services such as patent, design, technology, trade-mark and copyright applications and registrations; opposition; invalidation; cancellation; and damages.


FirstLaw, P.C. is noted for its prosecution work, especially in patents. The firm boasts experts in chemistry, including organic and inorganic chemistry, chemical engineering, textile engineering and cutting-edge technology includ-ing polymers, nanotechnology and semiconductors; electronics and information technology; and mechanics. The firm is led by president Changse Leon Kim, who has a PhD in chemical engineering and has represented companies including Procter & Gamble and SKC in patent infringement actions.


Hanol IP & Law celebrates the 20th anniversary of its founding in 2021; the firm is highly regarded for its work in the fields of life sciences and chemistry. President Min Son bring an “entrepreneurial spirit” to work, one client says. She previously worked as a patent examiner at KIPO, and as a patent attorney at a leading law firm in Seoul. The firm is divided into several practice groups: life sciences and biologics, chemistry and pharmaceutical, engineering, trademarks and legal.


Hanyang International Patent and Law Firm is a boutique firm that spe-cializes mostly in IP law, including prosecution, complex litigation and appeals, technology transactions, licensing counseling and arbitration. Yeon-Soo Kim is chief managing partner; his primary practice consists of worldwide trademark clearance, prosecution, enforcement, lit-igation, and other matters concerning trademarks and licensing. The firm has patent attorneys who are experts in me-chanical, electrical and computer technol-ogies, and biotechnology and chemistry.


Jipyong was founded in 2000 and is today a full-service South Korean law firm focusing on cross-border work in a variety of practice areas, including intel-lectual property and litigation. The firm boasts more overseas offices than any other South Korean law firm, including in Shanghai, Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi, Jakarta, Phnom Penh, Vientiane, Yangon and Moscow, plus offices in Seoul, Suncheon and Busan. The IP practice coor-dinates closely with the firm’s tax, M&A, fair trade and international arbitration practices. The firm is also an excellent source of information about legal issues in North Korea.


KBK & Associates in Seoul has more than 140 specialists, each assigned to a professional team for each practice area. The firm works in both contentious and non-contentious IP.


Based in Seoul and headed by Jay Yang, Kim & Chang’s IP practice is the largest in the jurisdic-tion, with about 130 part-ners, 210 associates, 260 other legal professionals and 320 support staff. The firm was named Asia IP patent firm of the year for South Korea in 2020, and Hermès and Bristol My-ers Squibb are only two of its famous clients.



Koreana Patent Firm offers services for patents and utility mod-els, designs, trademarks and service marks, inter-net related businesses, petitions for cancellation of trail decision, license registrations and contracts, searches and consulting. Managing partner Seung-Yeon Han is a key contact.


With offices in Beijing, Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi, Lee & Ko is a full-ser - vice law firm headquartered in Seoul; it offers IP services in the fields of elec-tronics, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, genetic technology, mechanical, telecom-munications, computer software and semiconductors. The IP team comprises former judges specializing in IP laws at the Supreme Court and Patent Court, as well as former KIPO examiners. Hyeon Gil Ryoo and Vera Lee are key contacts; Blue Bottle Coffee and Alibaba are two of their large clients.


Since 1961, Lee International IP & Law has been a leader in Korean IP with one of the largest and most active domestic practices, advising on patent prosecution, trademark registration, and a wide range of IP disputes, including patent and trademark litigation, anti-counterfeiting and infringement matters, domain name and copyright disputes as well as trade secret enforcement. Managing partner Terry Kim as well as senior partner Jin-Hoe Kim and Yoon Suk Shin have helped the firm win Asia IP copyright firm of the year for South Korea in 2020.


Muhann Patent & Law Firm – the word muhann means “infinite” in Korean handles IP work from application through portfolio management and commer-cialization. Managing partner Chad (ChangHoon) Lee is regarded for his work in broadband and wireless communications, microwave and radar technology, satellite systems, IP networks, software and semiconductors. Managing partner Eric (KeeWan) Koo has significant experience in trademark and design prosecu-tion and litigation. Peter (SungJin) Chun and Alex (YoungGun) Song round out the firm’s roster of managing partners.


Based in Seoul since 1952, NAM & NAM is an IP specialist. The team com-prises patent attorneys as well as Korean and American attorneys-at-law. The clientele includes MNCs, NPOs, universities, SMEs and individual inventors. Ben Yuu, who was previously vice president and patent counsel at Samsung Electron-ics’ IP Centre, is the managing partner; Tae-jun Suh, Seo-wu Lee and Jae-woo Byeon are other key contacts.


Park, Kim & Partner handles litigation, including oppositions, trials and appeals, as well as a host of non-contentious services, including registrations; licensing; annuity servicing; searching, watch and monitoring services; and rendering opinions and advice on IP matters. Jerry J. Chung is a U.S.-registered patent agent noted for his work in biochemistry, biotechnology and molecular biology. Sarah S. Chung is a U.S.-licensed attorney at law who has worked in South Korea since 2005; both received high marks from clients for their personal ap-proach to work.


Founded in 2013, PI IP LAW has two partners, four associates, one other legal professional and 18 support staff. The firm offers services such as prosecution, trade-mark, design, landscape, recordal, litiga-tion, portfolio management, anti-coun-terfeiting and licensing. Managing partner Daeho Lee is a key contact.


Ropes & Gray was the first interna-tional law firm in South Korea to have its foreign legal consultant office application approved by the Korean Bar Associa-tion. David Chun, one of the founding partners of the firm’s Seoul office, is high-ly-regarded for his work litigating patent infringement, trade secret misappropriation and copyright infringement matters in district and appellate courts and in connec-tion with government enforcement actions. Chun divides his time between Seoul and Sili-con Valley.



Seum is a tech boutique law firm in Seoul, where it handles work in the startup, tech and blockchain sectors, as well as general cor-porate legal matters. The firm represents the largest Korean investors in the crypto space, including Hashed. The firm recently advised 22nd Century Media Co., operator of blockchain media outlet CoinDesk Korea, in the issuance of a non-fungible token (NFT) for the Round 4, where professional go player Lee Sedol was victorious against AlphaGo, an AI program developed by Google DeepMind.


Headquartered in Seoul with offices in Pangyo, Beijing, Shanghai, Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City and a desk in Jakarta, Shin & Kim offers a broad range of expe-rience in IP transactional and advisory work, both in a domestic and cross-bor-der context. It advises companies of all sizes across a broad variety of industries. Many of the lawyers have technical backgrounds, which allow them to handle patent, trademark, design and copyright prosecution as well as litigation. Patent attorney Yong Mi Lee and Jeong Sik Kim are key contacts.


Sojong Partners handles research, preemption searches, and applications for patents, trademarks, and other IPRs. Its entertainment, telecommunications, healthcare, and other teams regularly counsel clients completing copyright, knowhow and other licensing deals. In litigation, top practitioners such as James Jeon have brought and defended validation, construction, license interpretation and damage valuation proceedings within KIPO, the Patent Court, and other courts of law.


SungAm Suh International Patent & Law Firm has more than 60 profes-sionals, icnlduing patent and trademark attorneys and U.S. attorneys at law. The firm scores points for being extremely dedicated to its clients, which include heavyweights such as SK Telecom and Samsung Electronics on the trademark side. Since 1986, the firm has filed more than 20,000 domestic trademark applications and more then 22,000 foreign trademark applications. The firm is strong on the patent side as well, boasting a high registration ratio throughout the years. Matthew Kyung is the firm’s managing partner. Sook-Hyun (Jennifer) Jeon is a partner and trademark team leader.



Yoon & Lee International Patent & Law Firm provides a comprehensive range of IP services, including work on patents and trademarks as well as con-sultation services for the management and enforcement of IP rights. The firm offers an efficient and effective combination of patent attorneys, former KIPO examiners, foreign attorneys and technical advisors with advanced degrees. Dong-Yoi Yoon is the firm’s president and managing partner. He is well-respect-ed in the chemical field, in particular, and has been extensively published on the doctrine of equivalents and other legal aspects of IP.


Yoon & Yang’s IP practice comprises an IP practice group and a separate patent prosecution group. Both of the patent and IP attorneys are experienced in many technical disciplines, which allow them to offer services from securing, protecting and defending IP to advising on IP transactions in a wide range of technologies. Partner Wonil Kim is a key contact.


Specializing in the fields of electronic, mechanical and biochemical, You Me Patent & Law Firm delivers both prosecution and contentious services of patent, trademark and licensing in Seoul. Partner Jiwon Kwon is a key contact.


Led by representative patent attorney YoungPil Lee, Y.P. Lee, Mock & Part-ners offers services in technology fields including electronic engineering, IT, nanotechnology, computer hardware and software, semiconductors, mechanical engineering, biotechnology and healthcare.


Yulchon was founded in 1997 with offices in Seoul, Moscow, Shanghai, Yangon, Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi and Jakarta. The IP practice comprises more than 50 individuals solely dedicated to IP matters, including former Patent Court judges and Supreme Court research judges. They are experienced in all aspects of IP including patent/utility model, trademark, design, copyright, trade secret, unfair competition, entertainment, privacy, as well as international IP dispute management (US discovery), IP compliance, and digital forensics. The firm has a strategic alliance with Y.P. Lee, Mock & Partners, to utilize additional resources to effectively handle any IP matters in virtually all technical fields. Senior patent attorney Kyung Ae Yoon is a key contact.


Please wait while the page is loading...