The Korea Smart Grid Association recently launched the initiative, which will support R&D projects conducted by companies, universities and research institutes to develop core technologies and standards for smart grid applications.
The program is sponsored by the Korea Intellectual Property Office (KIPO) and supervised by an organization called the Standard Patent Center.
The ultimate goal, it seems, is to generate patents that cover standards in the smart grid space. Kim Yeon-ho, the Director General of the Electric and Electronic Burear at KIPO, was fairly blunt about Korea’s thought process on this:
The standard patent is a high value-added patent that can enjoy both market power and monopolistic strength of patent, which are advantages of standardization.
A major caveat to the monopoly power rationale is that the owners of patents covering industry standards are typically required to license the technology on terms that are fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory (FRAND).
The Korea Smart Grid Association offers another explanation, claiming to be looking out for the little guy. The Association’s Vice President, Mun Ho, said:
Given that most smart grid-related companies are small and mid-sized businesses, which are weak in coping with standard smart grid patents, the program is expected to signficantly contribute to strengthening their competitiveness. The Association will exert continued effort to promote creation of patent standards.
In particular, the Association plans to develop flexible AC transmission systems and electric vehicle charging infrastructure technologies, create standard patents around those technologies, and then “provide results of development to small and mid-sized smart grid companies.”
At Smart Grid News, Jesse Berst’s “quick take” puts this patent program into context:
In the U.S., the smart grid has largely been about empowering customers and utilities with better information. In Korea, the smart grid is part of the country’s industrial policy and has been singled out as an important new export opportunity. [This program is] one of the steps the country is taking to make that plan into a reality.