Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Stolen One Rally Monkey

(Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer. Nothing in this post should be construed as legal advice or proper opinion. I am simply some idiot trying to make sense of things. Please consult proper legal counsel before making any decision.)

Ever since I moved under the shadow of Anaheim Stadium in 1987, I have been an Angels fan. I have been through it all, the trailing off of the great '86 team before it, the '95 collapse against the Mariners, the disastrous Mo Vaughn signing, and last but not least the World Series victory in '02.

That last one included a rather cheesy thing, that has become a bit of team lore, the Rally Monkey. Well it turns out the Rally Monkey made an appearance, sort of, at my work today.

I stumbled across Korean Trademark Registration #0586462, RALLY MONKEY, in Class 28 for a Mr. Larry R. Cano. This corresponds to Mr. Cano's US Trademarks for the same.

That is right, the Angels have no registered right to use "Rally Monkey" on merchandise in either the US or Korea (and likely many other countries). Its owned by a Cano. This is suspect to me, there is no way I can believe legally that some guy in Newport Beach, CA just randomly decided to file for the mark in October 2002 (the middle of the world series playoff run).

While I have no record of a fight of the Korean Trademark by the Angels or MLB, I do wonder if they explored with Korean counsel. First they may have a good chance to get it due to international fame, given the only understanding by Korean consumers of the mark is due to MLB telecast of games. However that is not the real tool I want to discuss.

One could cancel the trademark due to non-use. Now while most countries have this, the key in Korea is the standard is MUCH higher than in the US. In Korea companies usually have to show a great effort to import, market, and/or sell the goods. After three years, a mark is eligible for cancelation this way, and if the owner cannot prove such significant use the mark will be cancelled, and the filing party would have exclusive rights to file for that name for a period of time. 

It should be said that this tool is one that is used both the detriment and benefit of foreign companies in Korea. Companies find it good way to trip-up squatters because the standards are so high, however squatters find it a great tool to get valuable trademarks because the goods are not imported into Korea. Also as you can guess, squatters fight tooth and nail over these things since the outlay is pretty low compared to the costs. (The stories I could tell...)

Anyway to wrap up, I strongly recommend any company registering here to keep good records of their efforts in Korea to protect against cancelation, and if you find a mark you want likely held by a squatter quietly wait and file the cancelation trial on the date if you can wait for it (otherwise he will certainly "invent" some use to get it by KIPO, trust me).


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