Archive for the ‘Intellectual Property’ Category

Patent registration soars in North Korea

Thursday, January 25th, 2018

Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)

While public interest in patent registration is growing in North Korea, the Pyongyang IP Center (PIPC) has emerged as a pioneer among the agencies that provide services for patent applications, the Japan-based Choson Sinbo reported from Pyongyang on January 22.

The center was first established as the Pyongyang Patent and Trademark Agency in 1982 and renamed as the PIPC in 2004.

North Korea joined the World Intellectual Property Organization in 1974 and signed the Patent Cooperation Treaty in 1980. Two years later, the PIPC became the first agency in North Korea to specialize in patent and trademark services.

Reportedly, the workload of the Pyongyang Intellectual Resource Exchange Center has been increasing every year. The increased interest in patent registration is due to a policy that requires factories and enterprises to creatively manage their business activities—having the actual right to manage based on the socialist ownership of the means of production under the ‘responsibile management system of socialist enterprises’.

One of the important tasks for them is to develop new products by technological innovation. Factories and enterprises must focus their efforts on producing goods that may represent their production units and would not suffer by comparison with any other product in the market. To develop proprietary indices that are not found in other production units, they have to find technical solutions on their own. Such efforts have led to accomplishments in technological innovation as well as to their continued interest in patent registration and the pursuit of patents.

In 2014, an exhibition hall for intellectual products was built in Pyongyang. Managed by the State Invention Office, the exhibition hall displays various inventions, patents, and scientific and technological achievements, and other intellectual products, which are highly valued and widely circulated in the country. The hall also promotes the diffusion, exchange, and distribution of new technologies through the exhibitions.

As the role of science and technology grows more important in North Korea, inventors are emerging not only from the specialized scientific research institutes but also from the factories and enterprises themselves.


Intel seeks trademark protection in DPRK

Tuesday, August 6th, 2013

According to Yonhap:

North Korea is apparently no exception for efforts by U.S. firms to take every pre-emptive measure to protect their intellectual property rights worldwide.

American tech giant Intel Corp. is trying to lay the legal groundwork for possible business in the communist nation some day.

Intel confirmed Tuesday it has submitted an application for a “Specific License” in North Korea to the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC). The company delivered the request through its law firm, Novak Druce Quigg LLP, in August 2012.

But Intel made clear that it has no plans yet to do business in North Korea, subject to tough U.N. sanctions for its nuclear and long-range missile programs. In 2011, President Barack Obama issued an executive order prohibiting U.S. firms from doing business there.

“Intel has no intent of doing business in North Korea,” Chuck Mulloy, a corporate spokesman, told Yonhap News Agency by phone. “It is (just) about IT protection.”

The company routinely files protection papers of its trademark worldwide, regardless of whether it does business in a certain nation, he added.

The U.S. Treasury refused to discuss a specific firm’s move.

“On background, please note that we will not comment on specific companies but we do have a favorable licensing policy for protecting intellectual property,” a Treasury official said.

Read the full story here:
Intel seeking trademark protection in N. Korea


Phoenix Commercial Ventures Ltd reacquires Sinji Brand

Sunday, February 24th, 2013



Phoenix Commercial Ventures Ltd is pleased to announce that it has reacquired the Sinji brand, trademark and associated intellectual property rights.

Sinji JVC was a 50/50 joint venture between Phoenix Commercial Ventures Ltd and the Taegyong Economic Group.

Phoenix’s share in the company was sold to a third party in November 2010.

Sinji (pronounced “shinjee”) was a lieutenant of Tangun, the first king of Korea in around 3,000 BC, and his mission was to relay communications between the king and his people. In the absence of a written script, he invented one. Sinji dates from ancient history, all Koreans will recognise the name. Sinji symbolises the human intellectual, and he can be considered to be the original Korean IT developer.

Sinji’s main areas of operations at the time of disposal were:

• Retail (consumer electronics, household necessities)
• Software (eg the innovative web based e-learning platform, learnwithelsi)
• Artificial flower manufacturing for export
• SKD assembly/retail: Renewable energy products (eg small capacity wind turbine generators)

Phoenix Commercial Ventures Ltd will issue further updates as to the intended future operations and direction of the newly acquired Sinji brand.

Here is a PDF with more.


Promoting New Technologies and Inventions at the National Exhibition

Thursday, September 27th, 2012

Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)

North Korea is promoting new inventions and technologies with potential to influence the economy and improve the daily lives of the people.

As an extension of that effort, North Korea hosted the 12th National Exhibition of Invention and New Technologies. The KCNA reported on September 19, this exhibition was a meaningful event for promoting intellectual products.

Kim Young-gun, the Commissioner of the National Science and Technology Council said, “One important purpose of the exhibition was to encourage and provide a place for agreements, contracts, and sales between consumers and exhibitors of intellectual products on display.”

He explained, “As a preparatory step, two weeks prior to the exhibition day, we gathered and distributed product and technology proposal information nationwide. We also try to meet the domestic demands and promote distribution of products throughout the country.”

He boasted that the exhibition was a success with over 1,000 orders taken for intellectual products. He also commented that wide varieties of new inventions, with new technologies, were on display and contracts were signed for technology and product development and new inventions.

North Korea established intellectual product regulations with the intention to create an environment favorable for intellectual product distribution and to follow the current trend in science and technology of the international community. North Korea also has a patent and technical literature archives in operation.

North Korea emphasized that this exhibition well displayed the strength and wisdom of the North Korean people in the country’s attempt to rise as a science and technology powerhouse.

North Korea has filed two cases of international patents through the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) this year. WIPO has confirmed that one of the patents filed this April was a cast iron welding rod structure used for industrial material while the other patent was still in the filing process and thus could not be disclosed to the public.

North Korea submitted three patent filings in 2007, seven in 2008, and four in 2011.

North Korea became a member of WIPO in 1974 and joined the WIPO Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) in 1980.


WIPO project in the DPRK

Tuesday, July 10th, 2012

UPDATE 6 (2012-9-24): The Associated Press reports that WIPO didn’t violate sanctions. According to the article:

The U.N. patent agency says it has been cleared of breaking sanctions against North Korea by sending computers to the regime in Pyongyang.

The Geneva-based World Intellectual Property Organization said Monday that a U.N. panel found it had not violated any of three U.N. Security Council resolutions by providing technical assistance to North Korea.

In July, the Foreign Affairs Committee in the U.S. House of Representatives launched an investigation into whether WIPO had violated U.N. sanctions by sending computers and other technology to Iran and North Korea.

WIPO has insisted it did nothing wrong in providing ‘‘standard IT equipment’’ to the patent and trademark offices in those two countries. The Iran review is still pending.

UPDATE 5 (2012-7-24): A preliminary assessment by the State Department has concluded that WIPO did not violate U.N. sanctions when it sent materials to the DPRK. According to a State Department briefing on July 24:

QUESTION: Two small things. One on WIPO, if that’s how it’s pronounced. WIPO. So following suggestions that WIPO allowed the transfer of banned technology to Iran and North Korea, has the United States been able to mount its own investigation of this?

MS. NULAND: Well, first and foremost, to repeat what we said here last week, we share the concerns raised here in Washington, in the media, regarding these equipment and software transfers by WIPO. We’ve been concerned since we first learned that they had transferred equipment to both North Korea and Iran. We’ve been in contact with WIPO and urged them to institute substantive safeguards.

Our own preliminary assessment, but we are still seeking more information from WIPO, is that there doesn’t appear to have been a violation of UN sanctions. However, this has now been referred to the sanctions committee for them to make their own determination, so we will await the views of the respective UN sanctions committees. We are also seeking more information from WIPO so that we can conclude our own work on whether there was any violation of U.S. law, but we don’t yet have everything that we need in order to make that assessment.

QUESTION: I understand that you don’t yet have everything you need to make a final assessment. But based on what you have, are you able to make a preliminary assessment as to whether or not any U.S. laws were broken?

MS. NULAND: I don’t have a preliminary assessment for you. We’re still seeking some more detail from WIPO.

QUESTION: And then one last thing. I believe there was supposed to have been a hearing in the House today on this that got canceled, I think because the WIPO officials were not going to be available to testify. Are you – given that you don’t yet have all the information that you want, are you satisfied that you are getting enough cooperation from them?

MS. NULAND: Well, we are continuing to work with them, and that is a conversation that is ongoing. I think we are – we have seen a number of positive steps from WIPO with regard to their procedures going forward that are important. For example, they have agreed to a commission that will have an external and independent auditing ability with regard to their projects to try to prevent this kind of thing from happening in the future. As I said, they’re going to seek a retroactive opinion from the sanctions committee, which wasn’t evident at the beginning of this. And they’re also going to ensure that any future projects are reviewed by their legal counsel. But we are still working with them on some of this U.S. stuff that we need.

QUESTION: But you don’t feel like they’re stonewalling you on this?

MS. NULAND: We do not. No.

Here is what the Chicago Tribune had to say about the canceled House committee hearing:

On Tuesday, the ranking Republican and Democrats on the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee accused Gurry of preventing two senior WIPO staff members from testifying before a planned committee hearing, forcing its cancellation.

The staff members asked to testify were James Pooley and Miranda Brown, a source familiar with the matter said.

“Director-General Gurry is obstructing this committee’s investigation of WIPO’s transfer of U.S.-origin technology to rogue regimes under international sanctions — a transfer that occurred on his watch,” Republican chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and ranking Democrat Howard Berman said in a statement.

A WIPO spokeswoman was not immediately available to comment on the statement. Gurry told Reuters late last week that he would allow “a properly competent person” to testify.

Lawmakers have suggested that the United States freeze contributions to WIPO until they are satisfied it is cooperating, although this would likely have a limited impact on the U.N. agency, which relies on member state contributions for only 10 percent of its budget.

UPDATE 4 (2012-7-19): WIPO has issued this statement on their web page:

Information and Clarifications Concerning WIPO’s Technical Assistance Programs
Geneva, July 19, 2012

Following some recent media attention and requests for information from certain member states relating to WIPO’s technical assistance programs, WIPO Director General Francis Gurry provided the following information and clarifications concerning the actions that have been undertaken, or are being undertaken, by the Organization in relation to the provision of technical assistance to countries that are the subject of United Nations (UN) sanctions.

The Director General reiterated that the Secretariat is treating concerns relating to the Organization’s technical assistance programs to countries that are the subject of UN sanctions with the utmost seriousness.

The actions undertaken include:

1. Following the expression of initial concerns over the provision of standard IT equipment to patent and trademark offices for the processing of intellectual property (IP) applications, new internal procedures were established and made operational on May 1, 2012. Under these procedures, all managers must refer any activity proposed in a country subject to UN sanctions to WIPO’s Legal Counsel for guidance and clearance. The Legal Counsel will, wherever necessary, consult the appropriate UN Sanctions Committee. Additionally, any work plan for a country subject to UN sanctions will be submitted at the commencement of each calendar year for guidance by the appropriate Sanctions Committee.

2. The provision of standard IT equipment to the IP offices of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) and the Islamic Republic of Iran that occurred in the preceding years, within the context of the Organization’s business modernization program for IP Offices in developing countries, is being referred to the relevant UN Sanctions Committees for their information and guidance.

3. The initial steps are being undertaken for a full external and independent review of the technical assistance provided to countries subject to UN sanctions.

4. A new internal instruction has been issued ending any provision of IT hardware in any of WIPO’s technical assistance programs.

The Director General reiterates his commitment to transparency and re-affirms the readiness of the Secretariat to continue to provide any information requested by any of the member states of the Organization.

While the legal advice received with respect to the technical assistance provided to DPRK and Iran was that the technical assistance was not in breach of UN Sanctions, it is hoped that the measures outlined above will provide assurance that the Organization is treating this matter with the seriousness that it warrants.

For further information, please contact the Media Relations Section at WIPO:

Tel: (+41 22) – 338 81 61
Fax: (+41 22) – 338 81 40



DPRK WIPO patent applications dry up

Thursday, May 5th, 2011

According to Yonhap:

North Korea has not filed a single international patent application with the global patent governing body since last September, a media report said.

The U.S.-based Radio Free Asia (RFA), citing an official at the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), reported on April 28 that North Korea has applied for 22 international patents since 1993 but new applications have dried up since September 2010.

North Korea’s previous patent filings included those on finger print-recognition technology and fuel-efficient engines and others. The country joined the United Nations patent body in 1974.

South Korea, meanwhile, has applied for 2,800 patents with WIPO in September last year, averaging about 700 per month.

Ham Yoon-seok, a Korean patent attorney working in the United States, said that North Korean law does not properly recognize the intellectual property rights of inventions and patents, attributing the notion to the weak patent applications.

Read the full story here:
N. Korea’s Int’l Patent Applications Dry up Since Late 2010: WIPO


DPRK statute smorgasbord

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2008

On this page, I will keep a list of DPRK statutes and summaries:

1. Foreign Investment Law
2. Free Economic and Trade Zone Law
3. Equity Joint Venture Law
4. Contractual Joint Venture Law
5. Foreign Enterprises Law
6. Taxation of Foreign Invested Enterprises
7. Relevant Labor Laws
8. Leasing Land 
9. Dispute Resolution
10. Domestic Sales Tax Regulations
11. Manufacturing & Export Operations
12. External Economic Arbitration Law
13. Commercial Joint Venture Law
14. Constitutions (x2)
15. Customs Law
16. Law on Economic Plans
17. Fisheries Law
18. Foreigners in FEZs
19. Intellectual Property

Click “read the rest of this entry” below to see summaries and statute text.



(UPDATED) How Big is the North Korea Deal?

Monday, August 11th, 2008

UPDATE:  (Reuters) Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told Japan that Washington would not remove North Korea from a US list of state sponsors of terrorism on the initial deadline of Monday, Japan’s foreign minister said.

ORGINAL POST: Marcus Noland comments in a Newsweek International op-ed how recent US policy changes towards North Korea (delisting the DPRK as a state sponsor of terror and exempting sanctions under the Trading with the Enemy Act) amount to very little:

Lifting the trade restrictions will have a minimal impact. North Korea will remain one of a few countries that does not have normal trade relations with the United States, meaning its exports will continue to be subjected to punitive tariffs of up to 90 percent.

Removing North Korea from the terrorism list means that Washington can now legally support it for membership in international financial organizations such as the World Bank. But the White House is under no obligation to actually do so. North Korea also remains excluded from US government programs that encourage trade and investment.

North Korea’s declaration will trigger a reconvening of the Six-Party Talks, which includes China, South Korea, Japan, and Russia. The inadequate nature of the declaration guarantees there will be yet another round of negotiations in which North Korea will reveal a bit more in return for further concessions. It is no accident that up to 50,000 metric tons of US food aid is expected to arrive in North Korea early this month. 

Writing in 2004 (yet relevant today), Marcus Noland wrote about these issues in depth.  Below are excerpts from his op-ed on US tariffs:

US importers of DPRK products are required to obtain prior approval from the US Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets, certifying that the products were not produced by North Korean entities designated as having engaged in missile proliferation. Subject to this condition, approval is routine. US government officials report that they receive only a handful of such requests each year. Their impression is that business conditions in the DPRK pose a greater impediment to bilateral trade than the regulatory regime.

So, at present, with the exception of military-related products, there are few specific legal restrictions on the ability of Americans to export to or invest in the DPRK. Imports are subject to a prior approval process, but this is based on a transparent and narrowly delineated certification requirement.

Yet there is little trade between the United States and the DPRK. North Korea is among the few countries that the United States does not grant normal trade relations (NTR) status to, and North Korean exports are subject to the so-called column 2 tariff rates established by the infamous Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act of 1930. These tariffs tend to be the highest on labor-intensive products such as garments, in which North Korea is conceivably competitive. Though their incidence is an accident of history, and not an intentional slap, the column 2 tariffs represent a serious potential impediment to trade. Some countries, notably China, have successfully exported to the United States despite being subject to the higher column 2 tariffs (though even China eventually gained NTR status on a year-to-year basis). Most countries that have recently obtained permanent NTR, such as China, have done so through the World Trade Organization (WTO) accession process. The DPRK has shown no interest in joining the WTO.

This disinterest is unfortunate. The United States does not grant the DPRK quotas under the Multi-Fibre Arrangement (MFA), a worldwide network of bilateral trade quotas on textiles and apparel (due to expire in 2005), and WTO accession could aid the DPRK in this regard. In the case of the similarly diplomatically problematic Burmese government, the US government found it politically easier to accept an increase in Burmese exports to the United States than to negotiate publicly a textile agreement under WTO auspices with the repressive regime. WTO membership has its privileges. In any event, the DPRK is one of the rare countries that chronically do not fill their MFA quotas in Europe, where there are no sanctions, suggesting that the problem lies in DPRK’s inability to compete, not in trade barriers.

However, should the DPRK obtain NTR status, the United States would likely classify it as a nonmarket economy (NME) and subject it to onerous antidumping rules on the Chinese template. The point is that improved diplomatic relations is no panacea—the United States can be protectionist on purely economic grounds, regardless of politics.

Conversely, the United States trades with some low-income countries preferentially, unilaterally granting them limited tariff-free access through the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP), subject to standards concerning workers’ rights, intellectual property protection, and drug trafficking. Given North Korea’s disregard for internationally accepted labor standards, it is inconceivable that the United States would grant North Korea GSP privileges under current practices, even if diplomatic relations were normalized. Yet China, which has never received GSP privileges, vividly demonstrates that it is quite possible to prosper without such advantages.

Today, internal conditions and practices in North Korea, not legal restrictions, greatly impede bilateral trade. However, with sufficient reform and improvement in competitiveness, a broad range of policy issues would become increasingly relevant. In this regard, DPRK accession to the WTO would be advantageous. In the meantime, rather than complaining about US policy, North Korean officials would be better served by redoubling their reform efforts.

For more information, read the full articles below:
Partially True Confessions: How Big is the North Korea Deal?
Marcus Noland, Peterson Institute
Newsweek (Link via the Peterson Institute)

The Legal Framework of US–North Korea Trade Relations
Op-ed in JoongAng Ilbo, via the Peterson Institute web site.
Marcus Noland


Nosotek: First European software firm based in DPRK

Sunday, April 20th, 2008

 “Nosotek is the first European-invested software development & research company in the DPRK, with the head office in Pyongyang.” – Interview with Mr. Ju Jong Chol (Vice-President of Nosotek)

Klaus-Martin Meyer: Mr. Ju, you are the Vice President of a very interesting company named Nosotek ( Could you please tell us something about this venture?

Ju Jong Chol: Nosotek is the first European-invested software development & research company in the DPRK, with the head office in Pyongyang.

It is founded by the General Federation of Science and Technology (GFST) of DPRK and experienced European IT-entrepreneurs. Felix Abt, the president of the European Business Association ( is one of Nosotek’s directors.

Nosotek is jointly run by European IT engineers together with their Korean counterparts. We have presently 50 engineers and a strong production line. We expect rapid growth thanks to our qualified, experienced and committed staff.

Klaus-Martin Meyer: What are Nosotek’s main products?

Ju Jong Chol: As we specialize on offshore IT outsourcing services we already have produced a large range of software products. Among our finished products, you find scientific software, video games, web applications, embedded software and 3D virtualization tools.

In case our customer needs a field of service where we don’t have experienced engineers in our own staff, the GFST will help us finding good people among the scientists of the universities. We can rely on sustainable DPRK and European engineering and business ressoucces.

Klaus-Martin Meyer: The DPRK is not the Silicon Valley or Bangalore. What are the customer’s benefits to do Business with Nosotek?

Ju Jong Chol: Of course, we’re not Silicon Valley or Bangalore. But we take the challenge to compete with these locations. The DPRK government took the strategic decision to give strong support to our IT industry which now bears fruits.

In the DPRK, software engineers have an average academic math level superior to their western or Indian counterparts.

Computer science education involves understanding of deep low level processes: when was the last time you hired a PHP programmer to realize he was quite at ease in assembler?

Klaus-Martin Meyer: Outsourcing to Asia is often identified with a risk of IP leak. Many western companies are complaining that after outsourcing their partners start copying their technology.

Ju Jong Chol: Then they are all invited to do their outsourcing projects in the DPRK! Our country is well known to have strong laws to protect secrets and we respect the value of IPs. And unlike what is common in other countries like China, there is only very little fluctuation of the workforce. Like in Japanese companies, our employees usually enter the company after university and stay their entire business life with the high personal motivation. This does not only help to keep trade secrets, it also helps to keep the experienced persons, who are needed for long-term partnership.

Klaus-Martin Meyer: How are the working conditions at Nosotek?

Ju Jong Chol: Our employee’s working conditions are far better than average, compared with both domestic and international standards: They work with state-of-the-art hardware, have free lunch, more holidays than in Europe and even a one-week vacation trip to a touristic place every summer, which is completely paid by the company.

Klaus-Martin Meyer: How difficult is it for you to acquire international business? What exactly are the main challenges?

Ju Jong Chol: Currently the main problem is the US sanctions against our country. For example, western customers are threatened by the US to prevent doing business with us. At the moment, it is very difficult to transfer money to DPRK. Luckily, together with our European partners we found good solutions and our customers will make their contracts with companies outside of DPRK.

Klaus-Martin Meyer: Is it possible to name some of your reference projects?

Ju Jong Chol: Unfortunately, this is not possible. Our policy is not only to respect our customer’s trade secrets and software IP, but also not to disclose the names of our customers. But please be assured, that some of our work products are used in large public companies, all over the world including USA.

Klaus-Martin Meyer: There are quite a lot companies from South Korea and also international companies working at the Kaesong special economic zone in North Korea. Are these Companies potential customers for Nosotek?

Ju Jong Chol: We are doing business all other the world. Of course, companies from Kaesong may be potential customers. Currently, our main focus is on Europe and Japan.

Klaus-Martin Meyer: The last question is our famous 5-years-questions. What is Nosotek’s outlook for the next five years?

Ju Jong Chol: Our goal is to create public awareness of the DPRK as a place where IT outsourcing can be done at the best ratio between price and quality. Nosotek will grow and the business volume will highly increase.

Source here.


IT business delegation to visit DPRK

Thursday, August 16th, 2007

October 20-27, 2007 (Beijing/Pyongyang)
GPI Consulting

GPI Consulting (Netherlands) is one of the few western companies that has done an audit of the DPRK’s IT capabilitites and has published about them.

They are organizing an IT delegation to visit the DPRK this October.  Here is their marketing flyer and itinerary: NK-IT-tour.pdf

From the Marketing Flyer:

North Korea offers interesting business opportunities in several fields, such as software development, production of computer games, animation and cartoons, data entry en digitization. In order to provide detailed information about the IT opportunities in North Korea, a unique IT Study Tour will take place from 20 – 27 October 2007.

The trip to North Korea will focus on offshoring in the field of IT and BPO (Business Process Out-sourcing). We expect participants from IT- and software organizations that are investigating offshoring, or from consultants researching new offshore locations. Companies interested in exploring a new potential export market are also welcome to join the tour.

Europe still lacks sufficient knowledge about the promising North Korean IT sector. The goal of the business mission is to give the participants detailed information about offshoring, and especially about the opportunities in North Korea. We will strive to have participants from large, small and medium sized companies taking part in the IT study tour.

In order to make a business trip of 7 days attractive, the delegation will visit various companies in Pyongyang in the field of IT, animation, cartoons, computer games and BPO. The business mission will have an informal character with a visit to a university and also with attention to cultural and tourist elements. The participants of the tour will meet in China (Beijing); after returning from North Korea, an extension of the stay in China is possible.

The organizer of this mission is KCC (Korea Computer Center), a major IT services provider in North Korea with offices in several cities, including Pyongyang and Beijing. The European contact for this business mission will be Mr. Paul Tjia, founder and director of GPI Consultancy, Rotterdam, The Netherlands.  Established in 1995, GPI Consultancy is a specialized Dutch consultancy firm in the field of offshore sourcing. It is regularly involved in IT study tours to various offshore countries in Asia.