Bubble tea shop pays damages for violation of Taiwan Fair Trade Act
E170518Y4 | Jun. 2017（E211）
At the 2016 US Presidential Election campaign, the Democratic presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton tried bubble tea at Kung Fu Tea shop in New York established by KF Tea USA Inc. (“KF Tea”), which event was widely reported on Taiwan’s press. Engaged in the same business but unrelated to KF Tea, Roten Ming International Co., Ltd. (“Roten Ming”) was interviewed and its employee said that Roten Ming is “quite related to” KF Tea. Moreover, Roten Ming shared a post on their FB fanpage indicating that “The “Kong Fu Tea” praised by Hillary Clinton comes from Taichung, Taiwan. We are reported in the international front-page story.” This post triggered KF Tea’s initiation of an action against Roten Ming, and later the Taiwan IP Court sustained Roten Ming’s violation of the Taiwan Fair Trade Act and awarded KF Tea TWD3 million in damages.
Roten Ming defended itself by saying that its employee clearly told the press that the bubble tea Hillary Clinton drank is not Roten Ming’s product, and that Roten Ming decided to be interviewed because they were told to talk about the origin of bubble tea in Taiwan. Therefore, Roten Ming did not make false statements. In addition, Roten Ming’s employee talked about Roten Ming being “quite related to” KF Tea, which means that two companies both sell bubble tea, and their bubble tea products are related to each other to some extent in regard to their respective name and source of ingredients.
The judge of IP Court held that the description of “quite related” is a vague one bringing the free-riding effect. Roten Ming, however, made defensive arguments about the act of making false statement alleged against it on the one hand, but presented relevant news reports to attract customers’ attention on the other. Therefore, the IP Court decided that the foregoing act of Roten Ming is a misleading act in violation of Fair Trade Act. This case is appealable. (May 2017)