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Image: NSTP

Fresh from being the first-ever Korean pop band to perform on Saturday Night Live, and ahead of their sold out shows at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena on Saturday and Sunday, BTS is aiming to crack down on the excess of counterfeit tour merch that will inevitably be offered up for sale. In a filing late last month, counsel for Big Hit Entertainment, the South Korea entertainment company that manages the wildly-famous Korean pop boy band, is preemptively suing to prevent hordes of counterfeit-sellers from seeking to benefit from the latest leg of the band’s global Love Yourself: Speak Yourself tour.

According to the complaint, which was filed in a California federal court last month, Big Hit Entertainment asserts that it is engaged in the commercial exploitation of the musical performing group known as BTS and possesses the exclusive right to use, or authorize the use of, the [BTS] name in connection with the production, distribution and sale of various types of music-related merchandise,” including all merch manufactured and sold in connection with the band’s tour.

Given the market popularity of the 7-member K-pop group, Big Hit claims that it is almost certain that “bootleggers and counterfeiters will sell, or attempt to sell, bootleg merchandise at or near the [Rose Bowl] shows, as well as at or near subsequent concerts during the tour,” in violation of BTS’ trademarks rights and Big Hit’s exclusive agreement with Live Nation Merchandise, Inc., which it exclusively authorized “to distribute official [BTS] tour merchandise at or near the site of the [group’s] concerts.”

With the foregoing in mind, Big Hit sets forth claims of trademark infringement and false designation of origin, and is seeking immediate and permanent injunction relief barring the sale of any unauthorized merch bearing the band’s intellectual property.

While the lawsuit, itself, is an extremely run-of-the-mill action, with musicians’ management companies and/or their exclusive merch partners commonly filing such suits to stomp out counterfeit sales ahead of (or immediately following) big concerts, BTS is anything but ordinary. The group – which got its start in 2013 and consists of members V, J-Hope, RM, Jin, Jimin, Jungkook, and Suga – is “one of the most popular and successful musical acts worldwide,” the complaint declares, pointing to the dozens of awards that have been given to the group, including in the U.S., and its millions of social media followers across the globe.

More than that, though, BTS is readily surpassing even the most influential K-pop bands that came before it, not only in its native Korea but in the West, as well. Its 2018 album Love Yourself: Tear, for instance, debuted at number one on the U.S. Billboard 200 chart, making it “the first Korean album to top the U.S. albums chart” … ever, and has since landed the title of “the highest-charting album by an Asian musical act in the U.S. ever.” 

Still yet, in April, BTS became the first Asian band to surpass 5 billion streams on Spotify, while also being named on Time Magazine’s 100’s most influential list for 2019.

*The case is Big Hit Entertainment Co. Ltd., v. John Does 1-100, Jane Does 1- 100, and XYZ Companies 1-100, 2:19-cv-03330 (C.D.Cal).