The Intellectual Property Court delivered court judgment No. 104-Min-Zhu-Su-19 on January 6, 2016 for a case regarding copyright infringement of circuit layouts. In this judgment, the Intellectual Property Court held that in investigating whether the circuit layout of an actual product constitutes copyright infringement, the comparison method used for pictorial and graphical works should be employed to determine whether the defendant had committed acts of "reproducing" the plaintiff's circuit diagram and layout. The functions and technical provisions of said circuit and layout, however, fall within the scope of patents and are immaterial to comparisons in copyright cases.
In the case presently under discussion, the Plaintiff claimed copyright ownership of the internal circuit diagram and layout of its product. The Defendant was accused of reproducing the Plaintiff's circuit diagram and layout onto the disputed product, thereby infringing upon the copyright of the Plaintiff. In this judgment, the Intellectual Property Court first described the distinctions among the three relevant types of pictorial and graphical works, namely circuit diagram, circuit board layout, and integrated circuit layout. "Circuit diagram" generally refers to a depiction of the interconnecting relationships between electronic components created using circuit design software, whereas said depiction is a schematic representation only. "Circuit board layout” is derived from the interconnecting relationships between electronic components and the actual size and number of layers of the circuit board as disclosed in the aforementioned circuit diagram, and is depicted as a two-dimensional (single-layer) or three-dimensional (double or multi-layer) configuration that displays the allocation of actual electronic components with cable connections and routing. "Integrated circuit layout" refers to a two-dimensional or three-dimensional design of how transistors, capacitors, other electronic components and interconnecting leads are integrated onto semiconducting material.
The Intellectual Property Court judged that in the assessment report presented by the Plaintiff, all references to "circuit layouts" in the comparison pertained to components or parts installed onto the circuit boards, not to any of the pictorial and graphical works described above. In other words, while the Plaintiff's assessment report referred to its objects of comparison as "circuit layouts," the assessments were not performed on any pictorial and graphical works. In fact, said assessment report concluded only that the functions of the Plaintiff's product and the disputed product were deemed the same, and did not refer to the disputed product as constituting any form of direct, indirect, permanent, or temporary reproduction by means of printing, copying, audio recording, video recording, photography, written statements, or any other methods. Furthermore, upon visual inspection of the circuit boards of the Plaintiff's product and the disputed product, the Court found that circuit board size, electronic component arrangement, and the allocation of parts were all at variance, and that no similarities between the circuit layouts could be identified. Therefore, the Court determined that, based solely on the conclusion presented in the assessment report claiming similarity of function, insufficient evidence could be found to support the claim that the Defendant’s circuit layout of the disputed product involved the reproduction of the Plaintiff’s pictorial and graphical works.
Pursuant to these findings, the Court held that the Defendant had not infringed upon the Plaintiff's copyright, and the Plaintiff's claim was subsequently dismissed.