Dark clouds are gathering over K-pop act T-ara’s future, with its former agency seeking exclusive rights to the group name.
On Monday, local media reported that MBK Entertainment, which had represented T-ara for a decade until the members’ departure last week, had applied to register the group’s name “T-ara” as its trademark at the Korean Intellectual Property Office on Dec. 28 last year, three days before the members’ contract with the agency expired.
T-ara (MBK Entertainment)
The application, if accepted, will prevent T-ara from promoting the group in any form related to the name “T-ara,” ranging from releasing a song to holding a concert, without the MBK’s permission at least for the next 10 years. The four-piece group, which left MBK on Jan. 3, may have to find a way to promote themselves under a different group name, as did the K-pop act B2ST. Now rebranded as Highlight, former B2ST members had to change the group name after leaving their former agency Cube Entertainment last year, as the agency had trademarked “B2ST” following its departure.
As speculations swirled over whether its action was intended to sabotage T-ara’s future, MBK on Monday stated, “We believe that we have the right to register the group’s name as our trademark as (the former) agency (of the group). We just want to protect the brand ‘T-ara.’”
The agency also emphasized that it parted with T-ara on good terms, but also said that the trademark application was made without prior consultation with the members.
T-ara debuted under MBK in 2009 originally as a six-member act. The group saw a major success early on, with hits such as “Bo Peep Bo Peep” and “Roly Poly,” although its popularity suffered a hit following its allegations of discord and bullying among its members in 2012. The group released its ninth EP under MBK “What’s My Name?” last June.
Since its departure from MBK on Jan. 3, the group has been continuing to make headlines with rumors that member Hyomin has been in a relationship with the head of a media group since the second half of 2017.
On Sunday, T-ara was also reported to have received high-end supercars from Wang Sichong, a son of Chinese tycoon Wang Jianlin, during the group’s promotion in China in 2014. Sichong, known to be a big fan of T-ara, signed the group onto his media firm Banana Culture, though the group left the agency two years later.
Amid speculation regarding the group’s uncertain future, T-ara had previously said that it doesn’t plan to disband, adding nothing can be said about the group’s future at the moment.