The Intellectual Property Court rendered the 106-Min-Zhuan-Shang-25 Civil Decision of February 22, 2018 (hereinafter, the “Decision”), holding that copyright protects objective forms of expression of works rather than the ideas conveyed by the works.
According to the facts underlying the Decision, the Plaintiff is the author of the work at issue (i.e., the “Patented Creation of the Coding Arrangements for the Selection of the First Sound in Phonetic Spelling of Single Characters and of the First Phonetic Sound of Phrases and Sentences for Full-functioned Chinese Sound and Symbol Input Computer Devices”) and filed a complaint to seek damages on the ground that his work had been reproduced by the Defendants as the product at issue. The original trial court ruled against the Plaintiff. Dissatisfied, the Plaintiff appealed.
According to the Decision, Article 10-1 of the Copyright Law specifically provides that protection for copyright that has been obtained in accordance with this Law shall only extend to the expression of the work, and shall not extend to the work’s underlying ideas, procedures, production processes, systems, methods of operation, concepts, principles, or discoveries. Therefore, a work is required to externally convey the thoughts and emotions of people in certain forms. Copyright protects objective forms of expression of a work rather than the work’s underlying ideas, procedures, production processes, systems, methods of operation, concepts, principles, or discoveries. This is the doctrine of idea and expression dichotomy. The Copyright Law protects expressions of ideas rather than ideas per se. Therefore, copyright should protect the expressions per se of the work at issue and should be extended neither to the concept of character creation through the first phonetic sound as conveyed by the work nor to the computer code implemented based on such concept.
It was further pointed out in this Decision that whether a copyright is infringed should be considered in two aspects. First, whether it is the expressions or ideas or concepts per se that were infringed should be determined with the former being the object protected under the Copyright Law. Later, it should be determined if the infringer had any act of plagiarism due to exposure and substantive similarity. The so-called “substantive similarity” refers to similarity in expressions rather than ideas.
Therefore, according to this Decision, although the Appellant produced an analytic and comparative table, asserting that the product at issue was the source code that implemented the concept of character creation through the first phonetic sound, still the work at issue includes the literary work consisting of a comparative table for first sounds and characters and phrases and descriptions of a phrase creation concept rather than any computer code. Therefore, not only was it impossible to conclude that the computer code of the product at issue infringed the expression of the work at issue but also the Appellant had failed to substantiate that the Defendants had been exposed to the work at issue and to further indicate that the productat issue was substantively similar to the work at issue. Therefore, the Appellant failed to substantiate that the product at issue infringed the work at issue, and the Appellant’s appeal was rejected on such ground. The decision on this case became final.