Korean Law OfficeThere is no doubt that intellectual property is a valuable asset.  Parties all around the world are taking an arrangement to utilize 3rd party’s intellectual properties.  Sometimes it could be a license agreement or sometimes a transfer.

In any case, it is very important to verify the validity of the underlying intellectual property before entering into a contract.  As for a patent, first, it looks relatively simple to clear the validity, compared to other intellectual property such as a copyright.  A patent is being registered with the Korean Intellectual Property Office.  The registration, however, does not guaranty the validity of the patent at issue.  It can be challenged later by 3rd party and could be nullified by the court’s decision.

Then what happens if the patent becomes void after the license agreement is entered into? (more…)

그림 2In April 2013, attorney Mr. Wonil Chung successfully obtained a Supreme Court’s ruling which overturned lower court’s decision in connection with the sponsored links, Internet keyword advertising services, operated by Overture Services Inc., a wholly-owned U.S. subsidiary of Yahoo! Inc.  Before this ruling from the Supreme Court of South Korea, there had been an increased controversy over whether Overture system user’s deployment of an automated program to access to the sponsored links could fall into a crime causing a harm to the Internet network system.  In this case, attorney Mr. Chung argued before the Supreme Court of South Korea that it cannot constitute a statutory crime, otherwise the result would be an over-reaching of Korean criminal statute and cause an excessive chilling effect on the free access to the Internet.  Responding to Mr. Chung’s arguments, the Supreme Court of South Korea held that it does not constitute a statutory crime of interference with stable operation of the Internet network.  With its ruling, the Court struck down the prosecutor’s attempt of excessive criminalization and reinforced online service user’s right of free and unrestricted access to the (more…)

Our attorney, Wonil Chung, Esq. was invited to speak on the entertainment law practice at the 20th Annual Conference of International Association of Korean Lawyers (IAKL), which was held from September 13 to 16, 2012.

At the conference session titled “Entertainment Law Practice”, Mr. Chung gave an English presentation in front of U.S. and Korean licensed lawyers and law school students on the various legal issues arising out of the Korean music business, so-called “K-POP” and introduced recent high-profile litigations involving famous K-POP artists such as TVXQ, KARA and big management companies such as SM Entertainment.  He also provided comparative analysis between the laws of South Korean and the U.S.

Mr. Wonil Chung, a Korean licensed lawyer, has extensive experience in advising and representing Korean and non-Korean clients on various issues involving Korean laws such as intellectual property, (more…)

On February 10, Seoul Central District Court ruled that Mr. Jin-Young Park, one of the most influential music producers and composers, had plagiarized another Korean composer’s song.  The defendant Mr. Park is well-known as the co-owner of JYP Entertainment, one of the top Korean music production companies(Gi-Huek-Sa).  He has produced numerous albums for famous K-Pop artists with great successes including, but not limited to, Rain, G.O.D and Wonder Girls.

The plaintiff Mr. Shin-Il Kim, a K-Pop composer, had filed a lawsuit against Mr. Park on July 2011, claiming Mr. Park’s song titled “Someday”, sung by IU, had infringed his song titled “To My Man” and he is entitled to a compensation of approximately 90,000USD.

It was reported that the judge recommended a settlement to the parties before issuing the ruling, but the both parties objected to it.  And finally the court sided with the plaintiff.  The Court found that four bars from the chorus of the defendant’s song is substantially similar to that of the plaintiff’s song which constitutes a copyright infringement and ordered the defendant to pay approximately 20,000USD to the plaintiff as a remedy.

Under Korean copyright law, a claim for plagiarism and copyright infringement is established when the defendant had access to the copyrighted work of the plaintiff and there exists a substantial similarity between the two works.  With regard to the first element, (more…)

It was reported that last month Apple’s South Korean office paid $945 of compensation to one of South Korean iPhone users for the breaching of privacy by the controversial iPhone user location tracking.  Here is the detail from Reuters.

By the way, some news media reported that this was a ruling from a Korean district court.  I, as a Korean lawyer, think that statement is half right and half wrong.  Basically it is true that the court issued a ruling which ordered the Apple Korea to pay $945 to the user.  But this was not a formal trial case, but a Request for a Payment Order case.  Payment order is a more convenient & simplified legal procedure for claimant to get a judgment from the court compared to a formal lawsuit.  Once a request filed, the Korean court does not question the debtor (in this case, the Apple Korea) and issue a Payment Order within 2 or 4 weeks (in certain courts, within a few days). This payment order, a sort of ruling, asks the opposing party to choose whether to admit the claim as written on the request or to make an objection.  If no objection has been raised from the opposing party within 2 weeks, then (more…)

There exist growing needs for consumers to watch TV broadcastings from any place and by any way they want.  In response to these needs, several new business models have come into; for example, an Internet TV recording and/or streaming service, RS-DVR, SlingBox and any other place/time-shifting devices hosting services.  But the problem is that copyright holders, the TV broadcasting companies, are fiercely objecting to these new business models contending they are infringing their copyrights.  It is quite interesting for an IP lawyer to see how the courts from various countries have found the answer to this legal issue.

Lets’ start with the situation in South Korea, where I’m practicing the law.  Actually there have been two cases related to this issue; Ental TV case and MyTV caseEntal TV was an Internet-based TV recording service.  The registered users paid some amount of fees to the service provider and the service provider recorded TV broadcastings on its server at the request of the individual users with its automated software program, then converted it into the PC file format and sent the file to the user via Internet.  On April 30, 2009, the Seoul High Court ruled this Ental TV service infringed copyright of the TV Broadcasters.  The court found that it was the service provider, not an individual user, who recorded and copied the TV program, because the service provider owned and managed all the facilities used in recording the TV program.  Also the Court added that even though it was the individual user who copied the TV program, the very act of copying (more…)

There have been an increasing conflict between the free expression and the copyright protection in relation to the matter of a UCC, a user-created content, posted on the internet site.  For example, in the United States, there was a legal dispute concerning a 29-second YouTube video clip of a toddler dancing to Prince’s “Let’s Go Crazy”. In that case, the copyright holder to the Prince’s song alleged the YouTube video clip explicitly infringed the song’s copyright.

Almost the identical lawsuit had been filed in South Korea. In Korea, a father uploaded to his blog operated by Naver, the largest Internet portal site, a video capturing his 5 year-old daughter singing and dancing to a famous Korean female singer(Dambi Sohn)’s song, titled “Crazy” – what a coincident that two cases even had very similar song titles, “Let’s Go Crazw” and “Crazy”.  Just soon after the video clip was uploaded, it was taken down by the portal site operator upon a request from the copyright holder to the song alleging the video is a copyright infringement as it was used without permission. Then the father filed both a declaratory lawsuit claiming that uploading the video did not constitute a copyright infringement and a monetary compensation lawsuit for mental distress which he suffered from the unjust take down of the video he’d made.

On February 18, 2010, the Seoul Southern District Court sided with the father. The court ruled that uploading a video at issue did not constitute a copyright infringement because it fell within the scope of “the quotation from works made public” under Article 28 of the Copyright Act, which (more…)

Q) I, as a foreign actress living in Korea, recently appeared in a Korean movie that was very successful. I had about 10 lines – 10 minutes of screen time.  Now I see that the film company has put my picture on the back of the DVD case in which the movie has just been released. They Never asked for my permission and Never paid me any money for this.  Do you believe that I have a case against the film company?  Thank You.

A) I understand a certain portion of movie screen shot is printed on the back side of the DVD case.  In this case, the producer, not an actor, has the right to the screen shot.  So the producer does (more…)

This is an issue arising from an international IP dispute between Konami, a well-known Japanese game production company, and Neople, a Korean game production company.  Back in 2007, Konami alleged that game characters in Neople’s game titled “Shin-Ya-Gu”(New baseball) infringed Konami’s copyright in its famous baseball game “Jikkyou Yaku”(see the picture.  the left image is Konami’s character and the right one is Neople’s) and filed a copyright infringement lawsuit to a Korean court.

The lower courts had overruled Konami’s claim stating a game character itself could not be protected as a copyrighted work under Korean copyright law unless such character had been commercialized independently.

This year, however, the Supreme Court of Korea dissented from the lower courts’ opinion.  The Supreme Court ruled a game character can be copyrighted separated from its original work, a game.  The court held that “In order to be protected under the copyright law, a work must be a creative work expressing human thoughts or emotions. Thus, in case of a character implying shape and name of person, animal and so on appearing in cartoon, television, movie, newspaper, magazine and so on, if the creative personality was shown in the visual expression as to the appearance, action of such person, animal, then such character can be a work as protected under the copyright law, apart from its original work”.  Then the Supreme Court continued to held that  (more…)

Recently, Mr. Wonil Chung, a partner at Chung & Partners, has successfully represented NHS, Inc., an internationally renowned U.S. company which sells skateboards, apparel under various trademarked brand worldwide, in policing their trademark in South Korea.  NHS, Inc. and its Korean distributor had found that counterfeits of SantaCruz, one of the NHS, Inc.’s premium brand, had been made and sold in numerous online shopping mall sites in Korea.  They requested Mr. Wonil Chung to stop them from selling the counterfeits.  Mr. Wonil Chung sent cease and desist letters to the online shopping sites which sold the counterfeits, notifying (more…)

The legal concept of right of publicity is relatively new one in South Korea.  About 25 years ago, affected by the U.S. entertainment law cases, the Korean legal society began to theorize the concept of right of publicity, and finally the lower courts of Korea approved the right of publicity, although there is no ruling from the Supreme Court and no express statute provisions are established.

According to the Korean lower court’s rulings, the right of publicity is an exclusive property right independent from the traditional right of privacy.  It is a property right to use the name, portrait or any other identity of a person for commercial purpose and to control the use thereof.  The courts have ruled that the right of publicity can be transferred and inherited.  Not only a living person but also a dead person has the right of publicity, which is protected during 50 years from the date of death.

In Korea, there have been many cases where celebrities and sports stars claim their rights of publicity against various types of unauthorized commercial exploitation of their identity.  For example, in 2006, in a case where a Korean game company used pro baseball player’s name and personal record in their mobile baseball game, the Seoul Central District Court held that pro baseball players have the rights of publicity as to their names and personal game records so the game company which had used the player’s name and personal record without player’s permission (more…)

eab7b8eba6bc-8A few days ago, Seoul Central Court ruled in favor of Starbucks Korea in a copyright lawsuit filed by the Korea Music Copyright Association alleging the Starbucks Korea should pay royalties in playing copyrighted music in its outlets.  I wrote some posts regarding this issue here and here.  The legal issue was whether playing copyrighted music substitutes a mail business of Starbucks Korea.  That is because (more…)

eab7b8eba6bc-111South Korean popstar RAIN (Chung, Ji-hoon) and his ex-agency JYP Entertainment had lost their lawsuit in Hawaiian District Court brought by a local promoter, Click Entertainment, alleging Rain’s last-minute cancellation of Honolulu concert in 2007 cost them $1.5 million and caused damage to the company’s reputation.

A couple of days ago, the court found in Click’s favour, ruling that Rain and JYP were guilty of both breach of contract and fraud.  Nearly $5 million of the damages payment are punitive, with Rain himself and JYP ordered to pay half each.

It is reported that Rain has testified he didn’t know why the concert had been cancelled and the cancellation was out of his control.

I think many people, especially outside of Korea, wonder how the singer, the performer himself, couldn’t know the reason of the cancellation and how he could say it was “out of his control”.  In this regard, I think people should know more about Korean music business to understand Rain’s comment.

In Korea, almost every singers and bands are under exclusive contracts with certain entertainment entrepreneurs, called “Ghi-Hoek-Sa”, which is the mixture of agencies and management companies, yes, they’re doing both of jobs in Korea.  The problem is the contract between the singers and the entrepreneur is being criticized as very unfavorable to the singers.  For example, the term of the contract is very long, (more…)

naverLast December 23, the Seoul Central Prosecutors’ Office prosecuted NHN corporation, the operator of Naver (the largest Internet portal in Korea) and Daum Communications Co., the operatot of Daum for copyright infringement.

The prosecutors said two Internet portals have been aiding copyright infringement of their users by ignoring copyright holders(The Korea Music Copyright Association and the Korea Association of Phonogram Producers) request for removing illegal music files on their sites and taking no actions.  The prosecutors found 10 millions of uploaded music files (more…)

It is reported that Chosun Ilbo, one of the most prestigious newspaper company in South Korea, had filed a lawsuit against Daum Communication, an Internet portal company, for copyright infringement worth of KRW 1 billion loss.

Chosun Ilbo is alleging that Daum illegally posted Chosun Ilbo’s 57,910 news stories, 48,485 photos & illustrations on-line even after expiry of the three-month storage period set in a contract signed with Chosun Ilbo, which allegedly consists of copyright infringement.

Daum is denying all the allegations.

© 2008 Wonil Chung, a Korean Media Lawyer/Chung & Partners, a Korean Media Law Firm.  All rights reserved. Some copyrights, photos, icons, trademarks, trade dress, or other commercial symbols that appear on this post are the property of the respective owners.

A while ago, I posted an article, titled “Starbucks Korea Sued for Music Copyright Infringement“.  Under Copyright Act of Korea, “it is permitted to play any commercial phonograms or cinematographic works in public if no benefit in turn for the relevant public performance is received from the audience or spectators”.  However this shall not be applied to all the business place.  The Copyright Act does not apply this clause to certain areas of business, such as department stores, shopping malls, airplanes, golf courses and “any places of business regulated under Food Sanitation Act(FSA) where a part of its main contents of business is the appreciation of musical or cinematographic works, being equipped with special facilities to appreciate the musical or cinematographic works”.

The Starbucks coffee shop is regulated under FSA.  The party alleging copyright infringement is arguing “‘appreciation of musical works’ is a part of main (more…)

The Supreme Court of Korea ruled on February 28 in favor of LG Household and Health Care of Korea(“LG Household”), a domestic diaper manufacturer, saying it did not violate a patent of the U.S. firm Kimberly-Clark Corp.

The Supreme Court held that the disposable diaper with a leak-preventing flap produced by LG Household did not infringe on a patent owned by Kimberly-Clark and its local affiliate Yuhan Kimberly.

It was a long 8-year fierce lawsuit between two giants. Kimberly-Clark (more…)