Local hotel owner pays TWD5 million in damages for copying hotel room design
E181005Y3．E181005Y4 | Nov. 2018（E228）
Two local hotels were involved in room design imitation dispute to form the Fair Trade Act violation case, for which the Taiwan IP Court decided that 桂田璽悅酒店股份有限公司 (hereinafter referred to as the “defendant hotel”) violates the Taiwan Fair Trade Act by imitating the room design of Palais de Chine Hotel (Chinese: 君品酒店) under LDC Hotels & Resorts Group (Chinese: 雲朗觀光股份有限公司) and thus should pay TWD5 million as damages.
According to LDC Hotels & Resorts Group (hereinafter referred to as the “plaintiff hotel”), the defendant hotel’s responsible person had stayed at the deluxe room of Palais de Chine Hotel twice during May 2014. During the stay, the responsible person also requested to look around in the superior rooms along with many retinues taking pictures of and measuring the design, furniture, decoration and arrangement of the room. At the end of 2014, plaintiff hotel found that Sheraton Taitung Hotel (under the defendant hotel) had five types of rooms whose design, including materials of the wall and location of furniture, was identical to that of the deluxe room and superior room of Palais de Chine Hotel, for which the plaintiff hotel filed a lawsuit against the defendant hotel for imitation.
Defendant hotel denied the act of imitation alleged against it by the plaintiff hotel and pointed out that their room design is to satisfy the tourist’s needs as the main purpose, rather than to present an artistic work, and thus, room design does not constitute a work as defined by the Copyright Act. Also, the defendant hotel asserted that Sheraton Taitung Hotel has been operated under the brand name of “Sheraton” and attracts people with its local customs and seascape, which is totally irrelevant to the plaintiff hotel and Palais de Chine Hotel, and therefore, there is no occurrence of copyright infringement or Fair Trade Act violation as alleged by the plaintiff hotel.
The Taiwan IP Court ruled that the defendant hotel violates the Taiwan Fair Trade Act and should pay TWD5 million as damages to the plaintiff hotel based on the following reasoning. The defendant hotel’s responsible person, who has been running hotel business for more than ten years, should have realized that hotel room design is a main factor of room price and thus room design always costs hotel service providers a lot to attract consumers. The defendant hotel’s responsible person, however, took advantage of his stay at Palais de Chine Hotel to take pictures of the room design thereof so as to imitate the room design. Without creating his own design, the defendant hotel’s responsible person copied Palais de Chine Hotel’s room design to the room of Sheraton Taitung Hotel, which causes consumers to mistakenly believe at their first sight that the defendant hotel and Palais de Chine Hotel are affiliated companies. Based on the foregoing, the IP Court sustained the defendant hotel’s offense of imitation as examined and affirmed by the Taiwan Institute of Economic Research.
Moreover, according to the IP Court judgment, the defendant hotel should remove the room decoration and furniture in the room, be enjoined from leasing the room to consumers before removal and from using the pictures that contain the infringed Palais de Chine Hotel room, remove the pictures that contain the infringed Palais de Chine Hotel room from the defendant hotel’s website and on Agoda.com and ezfly, and also should publish the gist of the IP Court judgment in Apply Daily. (October 2018)