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‘Copycat’ trademarks fading in recent years

Counterfeits of famous foreign brands have been on a steady decline here, reflecting growing awareness of trademark protection, data showed Wednesday.

The number of trademark invalidation trials filed by foreign entities against local copycats has been on a downward trend since 2015, according to data compiled and released by the Intellectual Property Trial and Appeal Board.

The IPTAB is a special administrative tribunal affiliated with the Korean Intellectual Property Office that handles disputes involving industrial property rights such as patents, utility models, designs and trademarks.

Intellectual Property Trial and Appeal Board.
Intellectual Property Trial and Appeal Board.

The yearly number of invalidation requests, which peaked at 193 in 2015, dropped drastically to 137 in the following year and then to 127 in 2017, data showed.

The actual number of invalidations also took a downturn during the given period, falling from 81 in 2015 to 56 in 2016 and 48 in 2017. The average win rate for claimants stood at 58.2 percent in 2013-2017.

Trademark appeals -- an ex-post nullification process with no retroactive effect -- also decreased during the same period, falling from 1,724 in 2013 to 1,201 in 2017, according to data.

The general decline in trademark disputes involving copycats of foreign brands was largely attributable to recognition that trademark infringement will eventually boomerang on Korean industries, according to the tribunal.

“The leverage of Hallyu, or Korean Wave, has shown that original Korean brands may gain recognition in international society, which has kindled the sense of alarm against copycat practices,” said an official of IPTAB.

“Also, industries and the public in general have increasingly taken notice of the importance of IP protection in key free trade deals with advanced countries over the years.”

By Bae Hyun-jung (