On February 20, 2017, the Seoul Central District Court extensively reorganized its litigation divisions and administrative sectors to strengthen its expertise and international competence in IP-related litigation, including patent infringement litigation. In particular, (i) a new position was created for a presiding judge of the Second Civil Division, (ii) a new civil division and six special divisions composed of three judges each were created and (iii) the original three divisions specializing in IP cases were reorganized.

The most notable change is the establishment of a new 60th Civil Division, which will be the division of the Seoul Central District Court specializing in and coordinating IP matters. The 60th Civil Division consists of four members, i.e., the presiding judge of the Second Civil Division and three associate judges, and will have (i) exclusive jurisdiction on IP litigation involving preliminary injunction cases and (ii) non-exclusive jurisdiction on IP-related civil cases (including computer program-related copyright cases, but excluding general copyright cases).

In order to handle the high volume of IP-related civil cases, three panels of the previous IP divisions of the Seoul Central District Court were rearranged as the 61st, 62nd, and 63rd Civil Divisions. Each Division will be composed of three judges, i.e., a presiding judge (previously a presiding judge of a district court) and two associate judges, and will only deliberate on IP-related civil cases.

In order to handle special cases, six special divisions (the 71st to 76th Civil Divisions) were newly established. Each special division is composed of three members, wherein the presiding judge of the Second Civil Division will always serve as the presiding judge and be accompanied by one former presiding judge of a district court (associate judge) and one other judge of a district court (associate judge). The special divisions will only deliberate on special, high-profile IP cases that (i) involve new legal issues or (ii) may have a profound impact on society, such as the Samsung v. Apple case.

Furthermore, the Seoul Central District Court appointed judges having backgrounds in the IT and patent fields for the IP litigation divisions.

Kim Hyeong-du has been appointed as the presiding judge of the Second Civil Division. Presiding Judge Kim was a presiding judge of a High Court (court of second instance) and previously served as a presiding judge of the Patent Court.

Yoon Tae-Sik has been appointed as the presiding judge of the 61st Civil Division. Presiding Judge Yoon was a presiding judge of a district court and previously served as a judge at the Patent Court and the Korean Supreme Court.

Ham Seok-Chun has been appointed as the presiding judge of the 62nd Civil Division. Presiding Judge Ham was a presiding judge of a district court and previously served as a judge of an IP-specialized division at the Seoul High Court.

Lee Kyu-Hong has been appointed as the presiding judge of the 63rd Civil Division. Presiding Judge Lee was a presiding judge of a district court and has extensive experience in researching IP-related matters, including copyright issues.

The newly appointed associate judges also have extensive IP-related knowledge, as they either are licensed patent attorneys or have master's degrees in IP law.

Through such extensive reorganization of the litigation divisions and division of work, the Seoul Central District Court is expected to improve its expertise, promptness and accuracy of litigation by processing IP-related litigation through specialized judges with extensive experience in IP matters.

The newly established Second Civil Division is expected to facilitate and coordinate cooperation among the IP divisions in order to systematically accumulate case law regarding IP-specific legal standards, including the standards for patent infringement, patent invalidation, and damages calculation. Furthermore, in addition to the amended Civil Procedure Act in 2016, which consolidated the territorial jurisdiction of IP litigation to five district courts (i.e., the Seoul Central, Daejeon, Daegu, Busan, and Gwangju district courts), this reorganization is expected to further increase the number of IP-related civil cases filed at the Seoul Central District Court.

Accordingly, parties to IP-related litigation filed with Korean courts should be mindful of such organizational changes when appointing counsel, selecting the correct forum, planning litigation strategies, and making other litigation-related preparations.