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More agencies are getting patents

Entertainment agencies are increasingly applying for patents for their K-pop idol groups, the Korean Intellectual Property Office (KIPO) said on Thursday.

According to the government office, which handles intellectual property issues in Korea, major entertainment agencies such as SM Entertainment, JYP Entertainment and Big Hit Entertainment are using the names of their big-name bands — like Exo, Twice and BTS — to manufacture merchandise with member’s names on them.

Since the first “idol patent” was issued for girl group S.E.S in 1999, there have been 4,794 patents issued to K-pop groups, as of June.

The number saw a sudden rise beginning in 2010, a year when a total of 389 patents were issued across the country, 264 more than the 125 patents from 2009. The numbers have then been on a steady rise ever since, reaching 569 in 2016, 541 in 2017 and 656 in 2018.

KIPO issued 340 patents in the first half of this year: 197 from SM Entertainment, 101 from Big Hit Entertainment, 15 from FNC Entertainment, 6 from YG Entertainment, 10 from JYP Entertainment and 11 from others.

SM Entertainment took 48.3 percent of all patents issued since 1999 with 2,314, followed by Big Hit Entertainment (657), FNC Entertainment (465), Jellyfish Entertainment (328), YG Entertainment (275) and JYP Entertainment (147).

In the past, the specific idol patents were limited to the music or entertainment industry, it has since expanded into various fields such as cosmetics, clothes, accessories or food, following the expansion of Hallyu, or Korean wave, and the increase of demand for celebrity-related merchandise among fans.

“A celebrity’s name was once considered just an individual name, but now it’s a brand in itself and intellectual property with high value,” said an official from the KIPO.

By Yoon So-yeon
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