The Intellectual Property Court rendered the 106-Min-Zhua-Shang-14 Civil Decision of November 9, 2017 (hereinafter, the “Decision”), holding that ideas and concepts, which are public domain by nature, are not protected under the Copyright Law.
According to the facts underlying this Decision, the Plaintiff, who was the contractor for a vacuum toilet system for trains, provided two-dimensional and three-dimensional drawings of the original equipment manufacturer to the Defendant and requested the Defendant to create the drawings of toilet seats based on such drawings. To accommodate a customer’s requirements later, the Plaintiff hand drew a design drawing depicting S-shaped curves along with a handwritten note indicating “the design involving the change of straight lines into curves when viewed by the side” in a drawing sent to the Defendant and requested the Defendant to create and implement the drawing. However, the Defendant subsequently applied for and obtained the patent-in-suit for the design of the toilet seat in the order at issue (hereinafter, the “Toilet Seat at Issue”) without the Plaintiff’s consent. Therefore, a complaint was filed to compel the registration of the transfer of the patent-in-suit and to confirm that the copyright to relevant design drawings vested with the Plaintiff.
It was first determined in this Decision that since the parties had agreed that all intellectual property rights derived from the Toilet Seat at Issue shall vest with the Plaintiff, the Plaintiff was certainly the person entitled to filing patent application for the patent-in-suit. Therefore, the Plaintiff could certainly request that Cheng-hsung Chen register the transfer of the patent-in-suit to the Plaintiff on the ground of unjust enrichment. Such request was legally valid.
With respect to copyright, however, even if the Plaintiff provided the instructions for “the design involving the change of straight lines into curves when viewed by the side,” still such contents are ideas and concepts, which are public domain, and not protectable under the Copyright Law. In reality, the Defendant should be the author since he was the person who put such ideas into “expressions.” Therefore, although relevant design drawings vested with the Plaintiff due to mutual agreement, still moral rights cannot be assigned pursuant to law. Thus, if the fund contributor seeks to obtain both the copyright and moral right to a work by contractual arrangements, the wording of the contract should be “the parties agree that the fund contributor shall be the ‘author.'” If it is only agreed that “intellectual ‘property rights’ shall be enjoyed,” only the “economic right” to the work rather than the “moral right” to the work will be obtained. Therefore, the moral right still vested with the Defendant.