Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Well This Explains A Lot

For the most part I have a favorable view of the Korean Intellectual Property Office (the Korean government office that registers patents and trademarks). However somethings make me doubt I should have this view.

One of those doubts arises from trademark registrations. There are quite a few registered trademarks that make me scratch my head and wonder how that got registered considering how similar it to a famous mark. Friday there was a Joongang Ilbo article discussing this problem. It has this unfortunate statement:

 For products such as clothes and shoes that have a relatively short shelf life...the agency says it grants trademarks without a formal review process.

Accompanying the article is photo showing some real registrations with an uncanny resemblance to the brands Louis Vitton and MCM. The article also discusses similar chicanery regarding marks for Fendi and Gucci. Finaly, it is worth of note that they reporter is likely to be confusing trademarks with design models. Regardless of the exact legality however, I have the same feelings on this issue as it is obviously not working, and is leading to some pretty shocking things.

A few thoughts:

1. KIPO's argument is essentially false. None of the cited companies that fell victim to this in the article have brands "with a relatively short shelf life". Further, the article even mentions that such an area is only part of the problem, wrapping paper was another cited area where KIPO admits it applies the same faulty policy.

2. Arguments not withstanding, why the hell would they do this in a very visible area such as clothing? Not only are fakes such as these obvious and tacky, they are railed against regularly by the industry. They do stuff like this in a profile area, do so of their own admission, and then are offended when foreigners think Korea has weak intellectual property protection. 

3. The brand quoted in the article are world wide famous brands. Most likely those not cited in the article are obviously famous brands as well. I think the copy would be immediately obvious. I hope to post the picture here, but it would take a complete imbecile not to see the chicanery that went on in registering the dubious MCM and Louis Vitton marks in the article. In short, things like this make KIPO look incompetent.
How long did it take you to spot the fake? Apparently it takes too long for KIPO.

4. I could be a little non-PC and point out that all the marks cited were foreign marks. Then Korea wonders why foreign think they cant get a fair brake in Korea when it seems (at least from this article) that foreign marks not only have their precedence ignored but it is KIPO policy to do so.

5. The most disturbing thing, and I mention this a couple times above, stuff like this undercuts Korea's position a and claims as a leader in the field of intellectual property. Stuff like this not only embarrasses the country and business environment but directly makes KIPO look before the international community as corrupt, incompetent, or both.


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