Tuesday, October 30, 2007


Not really IP related, but I wanted to put this somewhere. From a Korea Times article on a new Hyundai Construction brand:
Hyundai said the brand ``Hillstate'' is to evoke feelings of high society and pride and is a combination of the word ``Hill'' representing a high-class residential complex and ``state'' that suggests high status.

Additionally, the name symbolizes the ``H'' of Hyundai emphasizing ``history,'' ``hotness,'' ``human,'' and ``honor,'' which are four main tailored categories appealing to consumers, company officials said.
Silly me, I thought the "H" in Hyundai meant "Hyundai". Barring that, how could the H represent four things at the same time (in addition the name). Thats one busy "H". Finally, "Hotness"? "Human"? Who are they kidding?

Monday, October 29, 2007

The Party is Over

Headlines recently:

Ballerina Disciplined for Nude Photos - Chosun Ilbo, Oct. 26, 2007

U.S. official to Korea: Open wide for beef - Joongang Ilbo, Oct. 29, 2007

Drug and Sex Party Organizer Busted - Chosun Ilbo, Oct. 29, 2007

Rumor is the party was for Newspaper headline writers.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Thats no Chair!

In a case reminiscent of the Vincent & Co. watch situation last year, nine importers of "Luxury" "European" furniture have been fined by the KTC for actually getting cheap stuff from China.

What is interesting is the parting shot from an KTC official:

"We are going to expand the scope of our investigations with regard to the origin of products to other luxury goods such as handbags from next year,'' said Park Sung-soo, director general of the Office of Investigation of the KTC.

Should be interesting if...well IF and HOW it may work.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

WiBro Theft Punishment

About six months ago news came out that a former POSTDATA employee stole IP related to Korea's WiBro wireless standards technology. Seoul Central Court recently sentenced some of the conspirators: 

(In case you are doing a double take at the last line, it can be interpreted suspended and the four will walk with community service. Also makes me wonder if Kim, sentenced for three years, will make the stereotypical hospital appearance to escape the pokey.)

No word however about the progress of the injunction filed by POSDATA in the US against Kim and InQuadron (the front set up the sell the IP). 

Making Bank

Read this is if you wonder why the Korean legal community is willing to fight tooth and nail against opening up in FTA agreements. Thankfully the patent bar is so specialized and obscure it's always off the table.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Does Kia Motor's have a squatter?

An interesting little twist happened in a post I made earlier today at the Marrmot's Hole. The Hole is a blog a friend runs, and is one of the more popular Korean related blogs on the 'Net. I got a taste of his hit count a couple times, at it is staggering compared to my modest numbers. Normally my contribution there are things I want to note, but do not fit in here really.

I commented on the name contest Kia Motor's is running for a newly designed SUV they are releasing soon. The contest concerns only the name being used in Korea. Not paying attention to such things too much these days, apparently the SUV is going to be sold the US as the MESA. Meanwhile, the choices that are being voted on for the Korean model are MOHAVE, WINDRIVER, and OPELIA.

In the comments section to my original post, somebody pointed out the obvious, basically "Why not call it the MESA in both markets and be done with it?" That comment got me checking the KIPO database. It started with the mark MOHAVE, which KIA applied for in Class 12 (cars) on June 29, 2007. WINDRIVER was registered by Hyundai motors (Kia's parent company) on January 24, 2001. OPELIA I cannot find, which does not mean much, it could be recent and simply not been put into the publicly accessible database yet.

Meanwhile when you search MESA in class 12, you get registration #1615 filed on March 22, 2007. And would you know it, there is this post from January 22, 2007 on a Auto news site talking of a "Kia Mesa". The name was being talked about for a while, and the good folks at Kia/Hyundai never thought to get around to registering the trademark until June 2007. Definitely well after a Park Jeong Hae applied for the aforesaid MESA in March 2007.

So what can we find out about Ms. Park? Is he some poor old lady in her garage dreaming of a forming a MESA brand auto empire one day? Thanks again to the miracle of the Internet and the KIPO data base can find out some more. Every applicant with KIPO has a special ID code that travels with them (this can create great problems for foreign companies merging, spinning-off, and moving, but I digress). If you type in Ms. Park's code, you can find she filed for 64 different marks, some refused, some registered, some pending.

One of Ms. Park's interesting filings is for AMUSE ISLAND for various service businesses, including tourism related businesses. The mark however was originally used  for  a tourism development project in Seoul in use at least 9 months before he filed it. The project is stalled, but that has not stopped Ms. Park who has filed for the mark numerous times since that first filing. She has been successful with some of them it seems.

Perhaps most jaw-dropingly audacious of Ms. Park however are the filings of KIPO (#31960,#00052), KIPONET (#00053), and KIPRIS (#31961) in class 42 (legal, scientific, and computer services). As you may guess, all of these are acronyms related to the services of the Korean Intellectual Property Office and its computer systems. This lady actually applied to have KIPO give up the short hand names they have used for over 30. Amazing!

Of course none of this PROVES bad-faith. Neither does any of the other of Ms. Park's filings in the KIPO database with similar circumstances around it. No doubt Ms. Park filed for MESA in good faith, and one day plans to use it for cars. Sure is peculiar though.

(Oh final note, from my own work here in Korea. In working quite a few cases similar to the one above, it has always amazed me how when we contact the lady with a number of marks registered to her as an individual, we almost always get a man who "really owns" the mark. While proving nothing it and of itself, it does make it that much harder to prove bad-faith on the part of the legal owner. So in other words, something else I consider peculiar.)

Monday, October 01, 2007

Cybersquating in Korea

Samsung is involved in a suit against some sort of local Kimbap maker (the site does not work at this moment, sorry) over the www.sens.co.kr domain name. After being involved in a few cases like this in Korea, I feel for Samsung. There are quite a few squatters, and Korean Law does not give too many tools to combat the phenomenon. 

Normally the best way to do this is the squatter is usually a business in a similar industry as the registered trademark the domain embodies. You can then go after them for trademark infringement proper, and make the domain issue peripheral and an easy win. However, Samsung does not have that luxury, Kimbap and electronics are not under the same trademark class.

Of course though, the real good news is this is Samsung. If there is anybody that could possibly work the limited tools against cybersquating in Korea, its lawyers backed up by a company like Samsung. This could offer a good precedent in future cases. Lets keep our fingers crossed.

Now looking beyond the news story linked above, I would love to get some more information. It could be that this Kimbap company could have a very legitimate business using the mark Sens. There use could even predate Samsung's.

Stupid Tourist Tricks

This story of Mr. Kim Chang-mo being caught trying to smuggle from Seoul about 50 pounds of what is likely fake jewelry in the Philippines makes me wonder if Korea has succeeded in making itself a "Hub" in some ways.