Airbnb host pays TWD1.79 million in damages to Eslite Corporation for using the two Chinese characters “誠品” in Airbnb advertisement
An Airbnb host surnamed Jian (hereinafter “Jian”) posted advertisements on Airbnb lodging website for renting out his properties for temporary accommodation rental. The advertisements contained such descriptions as “ModernHome誠品生活寓所Eslite Life Residence”, “ModernHome東區誠品寓所DongQu Eslite Residence”, and “ModernHome誠品書店寓所Eslite Bookstore Abode”. In July 2017, the advertising contents drew Eslite Corporation’s attention and caused a lawsuit filed by Eslite Corporation asserting trademark infringement against Jian with the Taiwan IP Court. Recently, the IP Court rendered a judgment to the effect that the Airbnb host, Jian infringed upon Eslite Corporation’s trademark right and should pay to Eslite Corporation TWD1.79 million and more in damages.
Eslite Corporation explained that they filed a lawsuit against Jian because Jian took a free ride on the results of Eslite Corporation’s business efforts and goodwill and thus caused Eslite Corporation’s damages by knowingly using Eslite Corporation’s “誠品” mark and “誠品行旅eslite hotel” mark without Eslite Corporation’s prior consent and authorization for his services of “homestay, hotels, temporary accommodation rental” under the knowledge that the “誠品” mark and “誠品行旅eslite hotel” mark represent Eslite Corporation’s brand and are well-known trademarks owned by Eslite Corporation.
Jian made defensive arguments that the two Chinese characters he used “誠品” are simplified Chinese characters and thus are different from Eslite Corporation’s “誠品” mark and “誠品行旅eslite hotel” mark. He also asserted that these advertising descriptions contained in his advertisements form descriptive fair use because his properties to be rented are located near Renai Roundabout and Eslite Bookstore, Dunnan branch and thus these descriptions that contain the Chinese characters “誠品” are simply to indicate the geographical location of his three properties.
The IP Court ruled that the two Chinese characters “誠品” and the English word, “Eslite” Jian used constitute similarity with Eslite Corporation’s “誠品” mark and “誠品行旅eslite hotel” mark and are identical with the two marks in pronunciation and concept, and also that Jian used the two Chinese characters “誠品” and the English word, “Eslite” in the service category of “homestay, hotel, temporary accommodation rental” which is identical to the designated service category of Eslite Corporation’s two marks. In view of the foregoing, the IP Court decided that the two Chinese characters “誠品” and the English word, “Eslite” Jian used have caused consumer confusion and thus Jian has infringed upon Eslite Corporation’s trademark right, for which Jian should pay to Eslite Corporation TWD1.79 million and more in damages. This case is appealable. (December 2018)