I received the following in the form of a newsletter from the Book Chon law firm in South Korea. I get a lot of newsletters and alerts, and don’t hardly ever reprint them. Plus, with few exceptions, I leave the Korea trademark law firm beat to others.
But the issues in this case involving the MAGIC SCHOOL BUS trademark seemed interesting, and consonant with the sort of things readers of this blog are interested in — in particular, the use of literary titles as trademarks, and assertion of a pretty darned descriptive / generic phrase — here, SCHOOL BUS — as a trademark. Interestingly, here the overreaching rejected by the Korean court ran in the direction opposite of what I would have expected. So with the permission of the firm’s Kyung Jae Park, my colleague in the New York bar, I have reprinted the item as a guest post.
It appears that in this case, SCHOOL BUS was not only the plaintiff’s book title but a registered trademark, evidently in connection with the book, but that the preexisting fame of Scholastic’s Magic School Bus book series (the subject of the lawsuit), including international fame, precluded the claim by the plaintiff. MAGIC SCHOOL BUS, of course, is a registered trademark too, being not merely a book but — as parents know — a way of life. While under Grimaldi book titles are not usually protectible as trademarks, as lawyer Lloyd Jassin explains,”Generally, titles of works that are part of an ongoing series are protected under trademark and unfair competition law. . . . Once a series has been established, each work in the series reinforces that it comes from the same source as the others.” This issue is addressed in the last section of the post.
Book Chon is of course entitled to the full plug in return for providing me with a fine substantive post today. So you should know that the firm provides a number of legal services in Korea including filing and prosecuting patent and trademark applications with the Korean Intellectual Property Office, and suits and complaints with Korean courts and public prosecutor’s offices.
Representative Attorney at Law Kyung Jae Park, member of the Korea, New York and Pennsylvania bar, graduated from the Law School of Seoul National University in Korea, University of Pennsylvania Law School (LLM) and Chicago-Kent College of Law (JD) in America. The firm is located at 177-10 Gahoe-dong, Jongro-gu, Seoul 110-260, Korea, so do drop in if you’re in the neighborhood. You can email attorney Park : [email protected]. The firm’s website, again, is www.bookchon.co.kr.
Thank you, Book Chon!
The Seoul Central District Court rules that the trademark “The Magic School Bus” of SCHOLASTIC INC. in America is different from “School Bus” of DAE GYO CO., LTD. in Korea.
We would like to share a decision of the Korean court on a trademark infringement case. The plaintiff was a Korean company while the defendant was an American one. Although the decision was made by a district court (the Seoul Central District Court), we believe the decision has a significant meaning and thus offer this special report in the hopes that will help you better understand the Korean trademark practice.
The Seoul Central District Court rejected an action for trademark infringement (Case No. 2009 GAHAP 138319) filed by a Korean company, DAE GYO CO., LTD. (“plaintiff”) against SCHOLASTIC INC., an American company, and BIRYONGSO CO., LTD., a Korean company, “defendants”) on November 26, 2010. The basis of the rejection was that the defendants did not infringe the trademark rights of the plaintiff.
SCHOLASTIC INC. sold The Magic School Bus, a series of scientific picture books for children, in Korea through a Korean company, BIRYONGSO CO., LTD., as the exclusive distributor of the book. The plaintiff filed an action against the defendants with the court on December 7, 2009 on the grounds that the title of SCHOLASTIC INC.’s The Magic School Bus infringed the rights of its registered trademark SCHOOL BUS, the title of plaintiff’s book.
The main reason the court rejected the demands of the plaintiff was that THE MAGIC SCHOOL BUS was already well-known worldwide. The evidence which the Court accepted in support of the argument that THE MAGIC SCHOOL BUS of SCHOLASTIC INC. was already well-known in Korea as well as in other foreign countries are as follows: Read More…