continuing from Korean Case Law on Trademark Dilution.
(1) At what time should we look at?
The factual finding by the lower court on whether the mark ‘Viagra’ was a widely known mark in Korea was affirmative. Note that the court said the time we should look at for determining on this issue was the date when the arguments for factual finding was concluded, which was November 13, 2001 in this case. (The case was filed on November 18, 1999.)
“부정경쟁방지및영업비밀보호에관한법률 … 제2조제1호(가)목 소정의 … 표지가 국내에 널리 인식되었는지 여부는 사실심변론종결시를 기준으로 판단하여야 하며 … 이는 제2조제1호(다)목의 경우에도 마찬가지라고 할 것…”
“Whether a mark is widely known in Korea under Art. 2(1)(a) should be determined with reference to the date on which arguments for factual finding were concluded. The same applies to ‘widely known’ under Art. 2(1)(c) (dilution provision) …”
(2) Whether ‘Viagra’ was ‘widely known’ in Korea for dilution purpose
On the issue of whether ‘Vigra’ was ‘widely known’ in Korea, the Supreme Court seems to affirm the lower court’s finding. The Supreme Court does not discuss lower court’s finding but only refers to ‘Viagra’ and other marks as ‘the plaintiffs’ eminent marks.’ This is a little bit odd to me because the Supreme Court interpreted the then-recently-amended provision on dilution as:
“위 규정에서 사용하고 있는 ‘국내에 널리 인식된’ 이라는 용어는 ‘주지의 정도를 넘어 저명 정도에 이른 것’을 … 의미하는 것으로 해석함이 상당[하다].
“The phrase “widely known in the Republic of Korea” can be interpreted to mean ‘beyond the level of being well-known to reach the level of being eminent.'” (case at hand) (translation by Kai)
, and simply quotes lower court’s finding on the issue.
This case is interesting in that the dilution provision was amended to the current provision while the Viagra case was still being tried at the lower court. I can’t find any record on whether the court changed the ‘widely known’ standard on appellate review. The lower court did not elaborate on the meaning of ‘widely known’ after all.
The lower court (Seoul High Court) found:
“살피건대, 원고 화이자 프로덕츠 인크의 위 각 등록상표 및 원고들의 상호가 상품표지 및 영업표지로서 국내에 널리 알려져 있는 사실…은 앞에서 인정한 바와 같다.” (99나66719)
“The fact that the registered trademarks of the plaintiff Pfizer Products, Inc. and its trade names are widely known in Korea as marks for good and service marks … are acknowledged as earlier.” (99 Na 66719) (translation by Kai)
(3) Whether the mark ‘Viagra’ was diluted.
Applying its interpretation of the dilution provision in the Unfair Competition Prevention and Trade Secret Protection Act, the court affirms the lower court’s decision:
“피고들이 이 사건 상표들을 상품표지로 사용하였다고 볼 수 없음은 앞서 본 바와 같으므로, 원심이 피고들이 이 사건 상표들을 자신들의 상품표지로 사용함으로써 이 사건 상표들의 식별력을 손상하였다고 판단한 것은 잘못이나, …”
“Since, as seen earlier, the defendant cannot be said to have used the trademark s (Viagra and others) as marks for goods, the lower court’s decision finding that the defendants damaged the distinctiveness of the marks by using them as marks for goods …” (translation by Kai)
“기록에 의하면, 피고들이 이 사건 도메인 이름으로 개설한 웹사이트에서 생칡즙, 재첩국,건강보조식품 등을 인터넷상으로 판매하는 행위를 한 것은, 원고들의 저명상표와 유사한 표지를 영업표지로 사용한 것에 해당하고, …”
“according to records, the act of selling arrowroot juice, corbicula soup and other health supplementary ingredients on the internet site registered as http://www.viagra.co.kr/ corresponds to using the plaintiffs’ eminent marks and similar marks as service marks …”
“이처럼 피고들이 위 상표들을 영업표지로 사용함에 의하여 위 상표들의 상품표지로서의 출처표시기능을 손상하였다고 할 것이며, 원심 또한 피고들이 이 사건 도메인 이름을 사용하여 생칡즙 판매 등의 영업을 한 것을 식별력 손상행위 중의 하나로 들고 있으므로, …”
“the defendants are found to have damaged the function of source identification of the aforesaid marks for goods by using them as service marks. The plaintiffs are also alleging that the defendants’ sales activity for arrowroot juice and other products is one of the acts of damaging the distinctiveness …”
“피고들의 행위가 위 법률 제2조 제1호 (다)목의 부정경쟁행위에 해당한다고 본 원심은 그 결론에 있어 정당하[다].”
The lower court’s finding that the defendants’ acts fall under the unfair competition act as provided by Art. 2(1)(c) of the aforesaid Act is justified.