Expert says inter-Korean cooperation on intellectual property rights doesn’t violate sanctions

Posted on : 2018-12-05 17:51 KST Modified on : 2019-10-19 20:29 KST
US Treasury Department’s OFAC regulations specifically allow certain inter-Korean activities
Attorney Kim Gwang-gil
Attorney Kim Gwang-gil

“Even if US and UN sanctions against North Korea aren’t relaxed for some time, there’s still work that can be done in the area of inter-Korean exchange and cooperation. One of the best examples is creating a framework for inter-Korean cooperation in regard to intellectual property rights. The US government is rigorously blocking exchange and cooperation with North Korea, but the regulations explicitly permit exchange in regard to intellectual property rights, such as registering the Coca-Cola trademark in North Korea. The ten resolutions related to sanctions against North Korea that the UN Security Council has adopted thus far do not contain any provisions that directly ban or restrict exchange related to intellectual property rights.”

This is the analysis and proposal by Kim Gwang-gil, an attorney with the Jipyong law firm and a member of the Presidential Committee on Northern Economic Cooperation. Kim served as the head of the legal team at the Kaesong Industrial District Management Committee from the time the Kaesong Industrial Complex opened for business in 2004 until 2013. Kim is one of South Korea’s foremost authorities when it comes to practical matters related to North Korean law and to legal interpretations of US and UN sanctions against North Korea.

On the afternoon of Dec. 5, Kim presented on the topic of “inter-Korean intellectual property rights exchange and sanctions against North Korea” during a debate at the National Assembly organized by the office of Rep. Hong Ik-pyo, a lawmaker with the Democratic Party.

As Kim argues, the North Korea Sanctions Regulations promulgated by the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) at the US Treasury Department specifically allow such activities: “All of the following transactions in connection with a patent, trademark, copyright, or other form of intellectual property protection in the United States or North Korea are authorized, including [. . .] payment to persons in North Korea directly connected to such intellectual property protection: [. . .] This section authorizes the payment of fees to the US Government or the Government of North Korea, and of the reasonable and customary fees and charges to attorneys or representatives within the United States or North Korea.”

“The reason that the US has made exchange with North Korean in relation to intellectual property rights an exception to the sanctions is probably connected not only to its philosophical position that expanding the exchange of information is the lifeblood of democracy but also to its policy of staunchly defending intellectual property rights,” Kim explained.

“Before South and North Korea move forward with exchange in the areas of society, economy and culture, they will need to establish an institutional framework for protecting intellectual property rights. Furthermore, South and North Korea agreed to take measures to protect scientific and technical rights in an addendum to the inter-Korean basic agreement in 1991. This is very late, but not too late to speed things up,” Kim said.

“Even if this is legally permitted, the practical approach is to work on inter-Korean cooperation projects while building political support in the US,” Kim said.

In Article 2, Clause 2, of a supplemental agreement aimed at implementing Chapter 3 of the basic agreement (“South-North Exchanges and Cooperation”), South and North Korea promised to take measures to protect each other’s scientific and technical rights, including copyrights and commercial rights, as defined in their agreement, but no further progress was made on this agreement.

“China and Taiwan signed an agreement about protecting cross-strait intellectual property rights on June 29, 2010. The South and North Korean governments should refer to that as they reach their own agreement about protecting intellectual property rights and should promote related exchange,” Kim suggested.

By Lee Je-hun, senior staff writer

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