[VIEWPOINT]In patent fights, preparation is key

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[VIEWPOINT]In patent fights, preparation is key

MP3 players, which are widely used for listening to music and learning languages, have become a sensation. Not only are they small and light, they have a variety of functions. Many users, regardless of age, use these music payers when they take a walk or exercise.
As MP3 players can help small and medium businesses advance into the market, many of them in Korea are currently manufacturing and selling MP3 players.
Some of the businesses are said to command the world market, going beyond the small domestic market. This means that the once-invincible Sony Walkman has been replaced with the MP3 players made by Korea’s small and medium companies.
But as the saying goes, clouds always follow the sunshine. There are frequent reports that foreign companies holding source technology patents of MP3 players are indiscriminately attacking domestic MP3 player makers.
Cases are emerging in which patent disputes are either directly or indirectly involved, and so these companies are finding it hard to attract new investment or having to give up a potential listing on the Kosdaq.
Lacking in information and personnel and unable to prepare for patent disputes, most smaller companies may be held back just as they are poised to take off because of patent disputes. In the worst case, they may even have to shut down.
Of course, there have been supportive measures to deal with international patent disputes at the government level. But most of them focus on follow-up measures, so they cannot be considered as the proper prescriptions for the small and medium businesses that can barely cope with the patent disputes that are already pending.
We should realize the importance of collecting information as soon as possible before Korean companies are dragged into an international patent war. It is even more urgent considering the reality that multinational firms of advanced countries are putting more pressure on the Korean companies by forming technology cartels, including a patent pool.
The Korean Intellectual Property Office plans to collect and provide such information on disputes according to each particular technology sector, with a focus on the electricity and electronics sectors, which are most frequently involved in patent fights.
The intellectual property office also plans to build an international patent dispute forecast system to process and provide information for small and medium companies that deal with particular technology sectors.
We at the Korean Intellectual Property Office are reviewing a plan to distribute patent information for concerned businesses in a newsletter, taking into consideration that small and medium companies do not even have the capability to search for existing patent information.
In important matters, we are going to produce and provide additional in-depth analysis and data.
We will spare no efforts to minimize the chances of the nation’s enterprises being involved in international patent disputes.
Although it will lend all assistance necessary, the government, under a market economy, plays only the role of a guide for a certain area in the bigger market. Those who own small and medium companies should bear in mind that they are the ones who should be responsible for rowing their boats steadily against the violent waves.
Isn’t the 21st century called a borderless global age? In a situation where technological wars are being waged all at once across the entire world market, whether high-tech technology is involved or not, small and medium businesses, as well as large companies, will never be free from international patent disputes.
All of us now should be aware of the fact that international patent disputes are no longer problems of large companies alone.
Korean companies must be prepared for a patent war and adhere to the idea that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

* The writer is the commissioner of the Korean Intellectual Property Office. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.

by Kim Jong-kap
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