In the ever-changing world of the fashion industry, every signature handbag design represents the endeavor of the designers and the goodwill of the brands. However, whether such handbag design may be protected under the Copyright Act in Taiwan remains controversial. In the recent civil decisions, the Intellectual Property Court demonstrated how the Courts in Taiwan approach this issue.
The Plaintiffs in this case were two French luxury fashion brands, while the Defendant was a leather goods manufacturer in Taiwan. The Plaintiffs claimed that the Defendant infringed their copyrights over their signature handbag designs. In addition, the plaintiffs also pointed out that the Defendant's conduct also constitutes unfair competition, and was also an infringement of "well-known symbol" as prohibited under the Fair Trade Act in Taiwan.
Firstly, with regards to the issue of copyright protection over handbag designs, the first instance of the IP Court in this case held that handbag designs should be deemed as an "artistic work" protected under the Copyright Act. The second instance of the IP Court, however, reversed the court's decision of the first instance and took the different views. According to the second instance of the IP Court, the designs of the handbags did not reflect aesthetic considerations and only served functional purpose of carrying objects. Therefore, the second instance of the IP Court held that the handbag designs were not copyrightable.
As to the issue of Fair Trade Act, both of the first and second instances of the IP Court held that the evidence provided by the plaintiffs were not enough to prove that the handbag designs may be considered as "well-known symbol" in Taiwan. Nonetheless, the second instance of the IP Court stated that the Defendant's piggybacking conduct was deceptive or obviously unfair and held that it violated the Article 25 of the Fair Trade Act.