On 13 October 2022, the IP and Professional Court docket issued a ruling on a completely novel problem in Taiwanese IP litigation: copyright of interior structure. When it remains to be observed whether the decision will be appealed, it functions as a major reference for the difficulty.
The circumstance was first introduced by LDC Inns & Resorts in 2014 from Sheraton Taitung Hotel, with regard to the interior style and design of the latter’s lodge rooms. LDC argued that Sheraton Taitung’s actions constituted copyright infringement underneath Taiwan’s Copyright Act and were a violation of the Reasonable Trade Act.
LDC asserted that Sheraton Taitung copied the special interior models of lodge rooms at the Palais de Chine, a 5-star lodge that it owned and operated. It claimed that Sheraton’s chairman experienced stayed in the hotel for two evenings, just after which Sheraton Taitung was renovated. Though these variations ended up using place, the chairman and several staff returned to the Palais de Chine, using photos and measurements of a number of rooms. LDC eventually argued that inside layout falls less than the label of ‘architectural work’, set out in the Copyright Act.
In response to LDC’s claims, Sheraton Taitung introduced a few primary arguments. Very first, the chairman only stayed at Palais de Chine to notice the interior design and style, which is common practice in the sector, and that only section of the furnishings was applied as a reference for foreseeable future purchases. 2nd, hotel area inside style and design does not fall inside of the scope of ‘architectural work’ under the Copyright Act, as this definition refers to a building’s framework and exterior physical appearance. Third, it claimed that most of Palais de Chine’s area styles had been both imitations of foreign styles or ended up pretty widespread configurations in the market. Therefore, LDC’s types lacked originality and could be easily replicated by accident.
Past court docket selections
There have been three related rulings in this scenario just before the most latest choice:
- the very first-occasion ruling issued by the IP and Industrial Court docket on 14 September 2018
- the second-instance ruling by the exact same court docket issued on 19 September 2019 and
- a Supreme Court ruling issued on 20 January 2021.
The initially and 2nd-occasion rulings the two held that the Copyright Act can in truth protect inside design and style, as this falls in just the scope of what is deemed architectural operate. Nonetheless, the two rulings reached various conclusions with regard to LDC’s copyright assert. The initially-instance ruling held that the copyrightable inventive get the job done is the interior structure “of Palais de Chine as a whole” – the structure of unique hotel rooms are unable to independently qualify for copyright security. The next-occasion ruling adopted a diverse view: the inside structure of particular person resort rooms can in fact be guarded as architectural perform. Dependent on this, the court docket in comparison the design and style and layout of the hotel rooms and ruled that Sheraton Taitung had indeed copied and infringed the inside style and design of Palais de Chine’s resort rooms.
Sheraton Taitung appealed this discovering at the Supreme Courtroom, which remanded the circumstance, stating that additional investigation was demanded. It should really be noted that the Supreme Court did not disagree with the earlier summary that interior structure may perhaps be safeguarded beneath the Copyright Act. The October 2022 ruling was an additional next-instance overview, built as a outcome of the remand.
The IP and Professional Court’s decision
The Oct 2022 ruling reaffirmed that inside style can be guarded as architectural get the job done, but in this occasion, the IP and Professional Court docket adopted a new methodology to review the lodge rooms. Home furniture, decorations, and normally seen space arrangements would be excluded from the scope of protection. Based on this tactic, the ruling observed that when the household furniture and decorations of Palais de Chine’s lodge rooms were being first, they ended up irrelevant when contemplating the definition of ‘architectural work’ and hence could not be guarded underneath the Copyright Act. Additional, the design and style of rooms was uncovered to stick to the typical place format observed through the lodge organization, so this also did not good quality as copyrighted architectural do the job. In sum, LDC’s promises of copyright infringement ended up unfounded.
From these court rulings, it would seem that the scope of what constitutes ‘architectural work’ underneath the Copyright Act has been broadened to include inside structure. Even so, the assortment of ways taken emphasize that the unique methodology employed to review is still much from experienced. In spite of uncertainties at this stage of the dispute, the way that the comparative approach has made all over the situation will have major implications for related upcoming instances.