Busy in securing patent and technological competitiveness, but the government is slow

Number of patent examiners 1/14 of China, yet the government reduces the budge for the new design support center 송방원 기자l승인2022.11.18l수정2022.11.18 15:29






▲ Lawmaker Yang Hyang-ja

Lack of patent examiners is a red flag for technological competitiveness

As global technological supremacy intensifies centering on semiconductors, the importance of preempting patents more important than ever. However, due to the shortage of domestic patent examiners, the quality of semiconductor-related patent examination is not performing well. 

Lawmaker Yang Hyang-ja of the National Assembly Trade, Industry, Energy, SMEs and Startups Committee shows a report from the Korea Intellectual Property Office that it requested the Ministry of Interior and Safety to increase the number of examiners by 200 a year for the past five years, but only 67 were approved. 

Yang says “Even this will be temporarily operated for two years until 2024 due to the government’s organizational manpower reduction policy.” In addition, since there has been no further consultation since the first consultation in September, it is currently unknown when or the size of the recruitment. The most important thing in the competition for technological supremacy is fast and accurate patent examination. However, Korea’s inefficiency is more than three times higher than that of its competitors. As of 2021, the number of patent examiners in Korea was only 953, whereas in China, there were 13,704 (in 2020), a 14-fold difference. Nevertheless, the number of examinations per person is the highest at 197, which places a heavy burden on the examiners. In major countries, the average review time per review is 25.4 hours. Reaching a similar level would require about 2.35 times (about 1,258 people) of additional manpower. In particular, semiconductor patents have a higher rate of invalidation compared to other fields, so it is more urgent to recruit expert reviewers. In the past 10 years, the average patent inefficiency in the entire field has been 48.6%, while the inefficiency in the semiconductor field has reached 56.9%, which is more than half. 

Yang says “The government is lukewarm about recruiting essential patent examiners. Recruitment of retired professionals with extensive field experience as examiners will strengthen insufficient screening capabilities and prevent overseas technology leakage. We urge prompt cooperation between the Korean Intellectual Property Office and relevant ministries.” 


More than half of the companies in the Design Support Center run out of space

The total budget for building a new center has also been reduced

It was found that the total budget for the construction of the new design support center was cut while more than half of the companies living in the semiconductor design support center rented a separate external office due to lack of space. Currently, the Design Support Center supports office spaces for up to 8 people. However, it has been pointed out that this does not reflect the reality of a rapidly growing fabless companies. In fact, 7 out of 20 companies that have moved into the Design Support Center in the past three years have left due to lack of space. Six of the remaining nine occupants rent a separate space, and only some employees are working at the design support center. On July 21, the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy announced that it would build a new AI semiconductor innovation design center with a capacity of 3,305 square meters and up to 20 people in the Global Biz Center. However, the cost of building the center of KRW 2 billion was not reflected in the budget for next year. 

Yang says “Among the world’s 50 largest fabless companies, LX Semicon is the only Korean company. Special measures are needed to nurture the fabless industry ecosystem, which has remained at 1% of the world market share for three years. In order to effectively support the rapidly growing fabless companies, we will make efforts to reflect the reduced center construction budget in the review process.“ 

송방원 기자  songbw69@naver.com
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