Red Velvet, SM’s first new girl group in two years, has hit controversy ahead of the release of their debut single. It turns out Red Velvet is also the name of an indie band based around Hongik University that started performing in 2013.
Ha Hee Soo, a member of the indie band Red Velvet, posted online, “We released a single last year, performed at Hongik University, and we’re currently preparing for our next album. It took us off guard, hearing that there would be a girl group debuting with the same name.” Ha Hee Soo said, “It’s not like SM wouldn’t have searched the name before they decided to use it,” expressing the band’s disappointment. The band’s digital single “The Day After You Left” was listed on the various music sites.
The band member said, “We’re a powerless indie band. If SM’s girl group debuts, our activities and promotions are going to get difficult. We’ve just now gotten our footing, and we have a lot of affection for our name, too. Please help us keep the name Red Velvet.”
Upon confirmation by Dispatch, the band has not gotten their name trademarked, and thus is unable to claim rights to the name. According to patent attorney Hwang Sung Pil, “Even if they are able to apply, if they didn’t do it first, they have no legal claim to the name.”
The only thing left is an ethical perspective. A music industry official said, “SM is a major music agency. They won’t fight with an indie band. This kind of thing happens a lot in the music industry, and [in the past] even if there wasn’t any legal claim, they took an ethical stance and the issues were resolved smoothly.”
Previously, in 2009, 2NE1 ran into the same issue. At the time, the group was supposed to debut as “21.” However, there was a solo artist who debuted in 2005, also called 21 (To Anyone). YG immediately apologized to the artist, and changed the group name. Yang Hyun Suk said, “We kept the name, but changed the way it was written to ‘2NE1.’ We’ll do our best to keep our activities and promotions from overlapping,” effectively resolving the issue.
[UPDATE] In a later report by Star News, it was revealed that band member Ha Hee Soo met with a representative from SM Entertainment and agreed on just promoting with the same name. Ha Hee Soo said, “We agreed to not bring up issues related to the use of the name ‘Red Velvet’ again.”
The band member previously said, “If they had searched the name, it would have come up. It seems like they decided on the name pretty late. We would have appreciated it if they had just looked into it and asked us beforehand for our understanding.”
SM also commented on the issue: “We had a meeting with the band Red Velvet and decided to just keep the names as they are. We are now able to continue with Red Velvet’s debut schedule as planned, and we thank the band Red Velvet.”
SM’s Red Velvet is set to hold their debut performance on the August 1 broadcast of KBS‘ “Music Bank.”