BTS Label’s Attempt to Trademark V’s ‘I Purple You’ Phrase Blocked By Korea’s IP Office
The application was "filed against the principle of good faith," the KIPO tells Big Hit parent HYBE, noting V first used the "Borahae" term in 2016.
SEOUL — South Korea’s Intellectual Property Office has thrown up a roadblock to HYBE’s efforts to trademark the iconic “I purple you” term BTS member V created during a fan meeting six years ago.
The KIPO says that HYBE’s trademark application for V’s “I purple you (Borahae) cannot be registered as its application has been filed against the principle of good faith,” according to a notice sent to the company.
The patent and trademark office essentially says that HYBE, the parent company of BTS label Big Hit, is not allowed to trademark the phrase that V uttered, even though he is signed to HYBE, because he used it first.
V, real name Kim Tae-hyung, first created the phrase “Borahae” during a Nov. 13, 2016 fan meeting, when he said, “Borahae, like the last color of the rainbow purple (bora), means we will to the end trust each other and love each other for a long time,” the KIPO said.
“I purple you” has become synonymous with BTS. So much so that McDonald’s, in its collaboration with the group, has used the term on the side of its purple-packaged BTS Meals, which have become yet another collectible for fans.
In 2018, after BTS launched its “LOVE MYSELF” campaign, Henrietta H. Fore, the executive director of UNICEF, used the term in a special video thanking the group for its work in helping raise money for a campaign to end violence against children. “We here at UNICEF purple you,” she said at the end of her speech.
In explaining its refusal to allow HYBE to secure a trademark, however, the KIPO sided with V as the creator: “We accept that the applicant has filed a trademark that is similar to or the same as a trademark used by a different person that has a contractual or working relationship such as partnership or employment.”
It cited article 34, paragraph 1, subparagraph 20 in Korean trademark law.
V, who is known to be among the quieter members of BTS, has been active on his Instagram since the notice to HYBE became public knowledge, but hasn’t commented on the case.
An official at the KIPO, who requested anonymity because they aren’t authorized to comment on an ongoing case, tells Billboard that its decision is not final. HYBE has been given two months to file an addendum that strengthens the company’s claim, and that period could be extended further, without an explicit limit, the official says. “Citation of the subparagraph 20 is very rare, and as far as I know there are no precedents involving BTS,” the person says.
The case follows an earlier unsuccessful application by LALALEES, a Korean cosmetics company specializing in nails, to trademark the “Borahae” term in 2020 under the classification of soaps, fragrances, essential oils, cosmetics, hair products, polishes, and other cleaning agents. After the rejection caused an uproar among fans, the cosmetics company issued an apology.
K-pop companies are known for trademarking names and phrases associated with their artists. When boybands leave their management companies they often cannot perform under their previous name because the companies have registered and own the rights to the boyband’s name.
In 2015, the idol group Shinhwa reclaimed the rights to their name after a 12-year battle with agency ShinCom Entertainment and June Media (formerly known as Open World Entertainment). In that case, Shinhwa’s original agency, SM Entertainment, gave the rights to “Shinhwa” to a new agency, Good Entertainment, and then trademarked the name in 2005, before handing trademark rights over to June Media completely, according to K-pop publication Soompi.
And in 2020 a Korean court stripped SM Entertainment director Kim Kyung Wook of trademark rights to the name and logo of first-generation boyband H.O.T. (Highfive of Teenagers), which he originally cast and produced in 1996. While planning a reunion tour, the group in 2018 was forced to remove its name and logo from promotional materials after failing to come to an agreement with Kim over trademark rights, Soompi reported.