The Korean Intellectual Property Office (“KIPO”) has recently published amended guidelines concerning digital identification, according to which digital signatures and digital notarization are deemed to have the same force as original handwritten versions of the same. This change stems from the recent revision of the Korean Digital Signature Act which prescribes deleting the requirements for certificates for digital signatures, and which will be effective from December 10, 2020.

Effective immediately it is now possible to file any documents containing a digital signature and/or notarization with KIPO. Such documents include, but are not limited to, Powers of Attorney (POA; both specific and general), Deeds of Assignment, and Declarations.

The new guidelines include some examples/requirements of acceptable digital signatures:

1. Digital signature (with appearance of handwritten signature)

2. Digital format (without appearance of handwritten signature)


1. Is it possible to utilize a copied image of a signature?

No, it is not permitted to copy an image of a signature and insert it into a document.

2. If not accepted, what is the next step?

KIPO will issue a formality office action (Notice to File an Amendment) if not convinced of the validity of the digital signature. The applicant may respond to the Notice by explaining the properties of the digital signature or filing supplementary materials. The response to the Notice should generally be filed within one or two months from its date of receipt, and this deadline can be extended on a monthly basis upon request with payment of the requisite extension fees.

3. Is it necessary to file an Assignment of Rights signed by the Inventor?

A patent assignment from the inventor is not a requirement during prosecution, or in litigation such as a patent infringement suit.

4. What documents must be notarized? Is digital notarization acceptable?

Documents relating to ownership changes (assignment etc.) and declarations are required to be signed and notarized. In principle, digital notarization is acceptable, if it verifies the validity of the signature property information. However, since KIPO has maintained a very strict standard for such documents, it is expected that additional explanation or evidence may be requested (e.g. original handwritten document).

5. Is government legalization required?

No. It is sufficient for documents relating to ownership changes (assignment etc.) and declarations to be signed and notarized, without government legalization. However, in some exceptional cases where official documents issued by foreign governments are necessary, legalization is necessary to prove their effectiveness.

6. What is the governing law for digital signature?

The main governing law is the Korean Digital Signature Act.

7. Is a digital signature legal, admissible, and enforceable?

Yes. According to the revised Korean Digital Signature Act, digital identity itself should not be a reason to deny the validity of digital signatures/seals/stamps.