Means of proof that may defeat the originality of “interior design” (Taiwan)

Yuki Chiang

The Supreme Court handed down the 109-Tai-Shang-2725 Decision of January 20, 2021, with the following facts underlying this decision.  The Appellant plagiarized and reproduced the guest rooms and furniture and furnishings of Hotel A (hereinafter, “Hotel A’s Interior Design”) designed by a designer retained by the Appellee for the guest rooms of Hotel B operated by the Appellant.  The Appellee asserted that the Appellant’s practice did not meet the ethics of business competition, constituted an act of unfair competition, and illegally infringed the Appellee’s copyright.  Therefore, a complaint was filed to claim damages, demolish the infringing items and post an apology in a newspaper.  The first and second instance trial courts both held that the interior design of Hotel A is an architectural work, and that the Appellant’s plagiarism of the room types incorporating the interior design is an act of copyright infringement.  Therefore, the Appellant appealed.

In this regard, the Supreme Court held that to determine if the interior design of Hotel A is copyrighted, it is necessary to consider if it is original pursuant to Article 3, Paragraph 1, Subparagraph of the Copyright Act.  The so-called “originality” means that an author’s independent creation is a work that has specific contents and creative expressions sufficient to convey the characteristics and uniqueness of the work and does not plagiarize the work of others.

In addition, according to the Supreme Court, the Appellant argued that since the interior design of Hotel A was based on the common configuration in the industry and the purchase of existing products with respect to the appearance, selection, size, lighting, and layout of the furniture, the interior design of Hotel A lacks originality.  The Appellant also produced documents such as a notarized furniture catalog, books, and the star rating form of the Tourism Bureau of the Ministry of Transportation and Communications as evidence.  Therefore, the original trial court should have stated the reasons for not accepting the Appellant’s arguments and the evidence produced instead of simply recognizing that the interior design of Hotel A is an architectural work that should be protected under the Copyright Act, and the appeal was well-grounded.