When it comes to any business of any kind, one of its most peculiar parts has to do with trademarks. A symbol, a logo, or a saying can often be purchased and owned by individuals or companies, but such an endeavor can at times be fickle. Nobody would think the phrase “That’s Hot” could be owned but Paris Hilton does. Same goes with the word “hon” (owned by Denise Whiting until 2010), a check-mark (certain design owned by Nike), or even an abbreviation (World Wildlife Federation owns the abbreviation “WWF” which caused numerous issues for World Wrestling Entertainment when it was known as the World Wrestling Federation in the past).
Pertaining to trademarks, SM Entertainment has been in a lengthy battle with an entrepreneur over the name of one of their most popular K-pop acts, Girls’ Generation. Now after eight years of back-and-forth legal battles, SM Entertainment reportedly owns the trademark to the Girls’ Generation name.
Apparently, both SM Entertainment and an entrepreneur identified only as “Kim” filed for the Girls’ Generation name back in 2007, as reported by Korea Times. SM Entertainment did so first after introducing the K-pop group of the same name back in 2007. Ten days later, Kim also registered the name but said he would use it only for clothes, toys, and food products.
It may seem SM Entertainment and Kim would leave this situation but in December of 2011, the former filed a complaint with the Intellectual Property Trial and Appeal Board against the latter to invalidate the registration. The board was in favor of SM Entertainment. As a result, Kim’s registration was no longer valid starting on August of 2012. Kim, however, refused to accept the decision and filed a lawsuit against SM Entertainment with the Patent Court of Korea. They ruled partially in favor for Kim claiming the name would not confuse his products of clothes and toys with the popular K-pop girl group.
Unfortunately for Kim’s sake, the majority of people associate the Girls’ Generation name to the K-pop girl group due to their popularity. According to KpopStarz, this makes the Girls’ Generation name synonymous with them. Ergo, those who know the K-pop group may be misled to think Kim and SM Entertainment have a working relationship. This situation, along with the fact that SM Entertainment technically filed to own the trademark to the name before Kim did, was reason enough for the South Korean Supreme Court to overturn the decision made by the Patent Court of Korea.
Presently, there are no reports on Kim seeking a means to counter the decision. If Kim does though, it may be a tough endeavor to pursue for two reasons. First, the decision to give full trademark ownership to SM Entertainment was made by the Supreme Court, the country’s highest court, which may mean their decision is most likely final.
Second, there are published studies that contribute to the argument that the name of Girls’ Generation is synonymous with the K-pop girl group. Just recently, the Korean Cultural Contents Agency (KOCCA) published the biggest influences of the Hallyu Wave, a movement starting back in the late ’90s in which South Korean culture increased in popularity not just in the country but internationally. Girls’ Generation was recognized as one of the three K-pop acts to be the biggest influence for such a movement, especially with their song “Gee” (attached above). The fact that Sones (Girls’ Generation fans) are by the hundreds of millions across all of East Asia, Europe, North and South America is a testament to this. Yet, these same hundreds of millions would mostly be ignorant to Girls’ Generation — the clothes and toy store owned by Kim.
[Image via SM Entertainment]