The first test trial adjudicated in English of an International Chamber case was held in the Patent Court of Korea this week. The trial was that of “3M Innovative Properties Company v. Commissioner of Korea Intellectual Property Office” and it comes as part of an effort to stop a growing number of foreign parties and international patent cases tried in the country.

The Patent Court in Daejoeon announced that the demand for English-language trials has been raised on a number of occasions by international parties. This accounted for more than 40% of the 611 cases adjudicated in 2016.

The oral arguments were heard in English by the attorneys representing the defendant and the Commissioner of the Korean Intellectual Property Office, in a setting very similar to that of a usual trial. The members of the bench deliberated and presided over the case speaking in Korean, and the judges then followed their deliberations with English translations. For those who attended the public trial, simultaneous interpretation in English and Korean was provided via headsets throughout the case.

“We had 209 cases in 2015 where the parties were foreigners, but in 2016 we had over 300 cases; so there is a special need to give foreigners easier accessibility in Korea,” said Patent Court Judge Chang Hyun-jin, one of the presiding judges for the inaugural English hearing, during an interview with The Korea Herald following the court case.

“Like the Apple/Samsung case, multinational companies do not always file lawsuits in only one country because they have businesses all around the world,” said Chang. “So judiciaries, like in Korea, feel the need to improve their judiciary system in IP litigation and allow better (information) accessibility for litigants.”

A bill to amend the Court Organization Act to establish the International Chamber, which was proposed by Rep. Jeong Kab-yoon, is currently pending at the National Assembly. In preparation for the decision, the Patent Court has been publishing court decisions and IP law journals in English as well as providing court practice and procedure guidelines in English, Chinese and Japanese since 2015.

However, should the establishment of an International Chamber be approved by the Assembly, the Chamber does not mean international attorneys will be permitted to argue litigation matters, according to Chang. In accordance with Korean law, only locally licensed and approved attorneys will have permission to try cases.

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