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WP recommended by The Legal 500

Five of Winkler Partners’ practice areas have been recommended by The Legal 500 as part of their research into legal service providers in the Asia Pacific region. Our insurance practice, led by partner Chen Hui-ling was ranked in the top tier for the fifth consecutive year, and noted for a particular strength in D&O insurance. The Legal 500 notes that Hui-ling “has vast experience in the industry and has represented international insurance companies seeking to integrate Taiwan into their Greater China operations”.

Head of our employment practice partner Christine Chen was noted for “an excellent pedigree representing international corporates in employment disputes and also has a wide ranging advisory practice”. Our employment practice was ranked in the second tier overall. Our intellectual property practice was also highly recommended, with practice head partner Peter Dernbach listed as a Leading Individual. The Legal 500 mentions that we handle trademark enforcement and/or prosecution work for a high proportion of the world’s leading brands and also perform patent prosecution work. Partner Gary Kuo is recommended for his IP litigation work.

Finally our dispute resolution and corporate/M&A work were also recommended. The Legal 500 notes that we represent international clients across an array of commercial litigation matters, including the enforcement of foreign judgments and that our corporate practice, led by Gregory Buxton together with Chen Hui-ling, has a particular focus on inbound investment and venture capital deals.

The Legal 500 has been ranking law firms worldwide for over 25 years, with a special attention to practice area teams who are providing the most cutting edge and innovative advice to corporate counsel. You can read the latest Legal 500 Asia Pacific rankings here.

2016 Taiwan employment law overview

Winkler Partners’ Christine Chen has contributed an overview of employment and employee benefits in Taiwan to Thomson Reuters’ Practical Law.

These resources are drafted in a question and answer format that allows practitioners to easily compare Taiwanese employment laws to the corresponding laws in other jurisdictions. The overview covers all recent amendments to employment law in Taiwan, including the October 2016 increases in the minimum wage, the May 2016 amendments to the Act for Gender Equality in Employment as well as future proposals for reform.

Practical Law provides similar resources for many jurisdictions around the world. A full list of contents, including employment laws in other countries, can be viewed here. A useful country Q&A tool is also available, allowing practitioners to compare employment and employee benefits across two or more jurisdictions at the same time.

Christine regularly provides information on Taiwan’s employment legislation, most recently for the World Bank’s Doing Business report and Littler Mendelson’s Guide to International Employment and Labor Law.

For more information on employment and employee benefit matters in Taiwan, please contact Christine Chen at cchen@winklerpartners.com or +886 223112345 ext. 307.

WP represents a third of the world’s biggest brands

Each year Interbrand releases a list of the most valuable brands in the world. Winkler Partners represents 35 of the brands that made the Best Global Brands 2016 list, 10 of which are in the top 25. Interbrand measures both company brand value and product brand value in compiling its list.

Brands such as Facebook, whose value increased 48% year on year, and Amazon, whose rose 33%, show that increasingly, the brands with the most value are associated with technology and the Internet. The most valuable brand in the world is still Apple, which saw a 5% rise in its brand value over 2015, while electric car company Tesla made it into the list for the first time. Social media, ecommerce, software and IT solution providers as well as familiar hardware manufacturers feature heavily in the list, as do consumer goods and several luxury fashion brands including Louis Vuitton, Hermès and Gucci.

Winkler Partners currently represents 35 of these top global brands of 2016, an increase from 25 in 2015, and 18 in 2010. Brands that we have worked with are active in many fields, including fashion, software, hardware, consumer goods, ecommerce, beverages and media.

The full list of Best Global Brands 2016 can be found here.

Scotch Whisky mark registered in Taiwan

The Taiwan Intellectual Property Office (TIPO) has announced the registration of certification marks for “SCOTCH WHISKY” in English and Chinese characters (蘇格蘭威士忌) by the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA). The SWA have heralded the registrations as “a legal breakthrough” that will give consumers even greater confidence in the quality of what they are buying as well as a further boost to Scotch Whisky producers exporting to Taiwan.

According to the SWA, Taiwan is the fourth biggest market for Scotch by value with exports worth £75 million in the first six months of the year. It is also the third biggest overseas market for Single Malt with exports worth £41m in the first half 2016.

These geographic certification mark registrations in Taiwan will make it more straightforward to take legal action against anyone trying to produce or sell fake Scotch in the future. Winkler Partners’ Christine Chen, who represented the SWA in their application for the marks, agrees: “These marks will help us, together with the SWA, pursue producers and sellers of fake whisky in a more effective fashion, and offer the Taiwanese public greater protection from potentially harmful counterfeits. We are grateful to our colleagues at the TIPO for their professionalism in approving the applications of these marks”.

Following its accession to the WTO in 2002, Taiwan amended its Trademark Act to protect geographical indications (GI) against misuse in line with TRIPs by allowing the registration of geographic certification and collective marks. To date, Taiwan has granted 51 geographic certification marks and 45 geographic collective marks. Of those, 62 protect domestic products such as Alishan High Mountain Tea and Chi-Shang Rice, while a further 34 protect foreign products including Darjeeling tea from India, Awamori (a distilled rice liquor) from Okinawa, and Prosciutto (Parma ham) from Italy.

“Scotch Whisky” has been registered as a GI or certification/collective mark in a number of jurisdictions around the world including the EU, Canada, China, Australia, India, Malaysia, Panama, Thailand, Turkey, Vietnam, Macao, Peru, and the Dominican Republic.

For more information on certification marks or other intellectual property matters in Taiwan, please contact Peter Dernbach at pdernbach@winklerpartners.com and Christine Chen at cchen@winklerpartners.com.

Christine Chen quoted in Asia IP on insolvency

Partner Christine Chen was quoted in the August edition of Asia IP Magazine on intellectual property issues arising from insolvency. The article explores how IP holders must pay particular attention to how their IP is valued, even when some suggest that arriving at a correct value is ‘part science, part art’. Regardless of the difficulty in doing so, the article states that owners that fail to value their IP do so at their own risk.  Christine explained that the greatest risk facing those who have not valued their assets is that, in the event of a potential bankruptcy, their assets may be severely under-valued, thus greatly increasing the risk of falling into bankruptcy. “Failure to value assets prior to becoming distressed may also foreclose some opportunities to use the assets to secure additional financing,” she said.

You can read the full article, beginning on page nine, here.

For more information on IP matters in Taiwan, please contact Christine Chen at cchen@winklerpartners.com.

Egyptian Goddess lives on in Taiwan

In Taiwan, when deciding design patent infringement cases, the Intellectual Property Court (IP Court) will refer to the Directions for Determining Patent Infringement issued by the Taiwan Intellectual Property Office (TIPO). These Directions were recently amended to expressly incorporate the holding of the Egyptian Goddess, Inc. v. Swissa, Inc. decision handed down by the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.

The amended Directions include the following significant changes to factors to be considered in determining design patent infringement:

  • Design patent infringement should now be assessed taking into consideration only the perspective of the “ordinary observer.” Prior to the amendment, the “point of novelty” was also considered in determining infringement;
  • The ordinary observer is defined as someone who is reasonably familiar with the patented product as well as with the prior art; and
  • The analysis of the similarity between the patented design and the accused product now adds the “three way comparison test” (i.e. comparison based on visual analysis of the prior art, the patented design and the accused product).

In the past, it was challenging for design patent holders to succeed in their infringement lawsuits (from 2008 to the present, only 30% of design patent infringement cases resulted in a determination of infringement) because minor differences between the patented design and the accused product would often be deemed to constitute a point of novelty. The existence of a point of novelty in the accused product led to a determination of no infringement. This was sometimes the case even if, from the ordinary observer’s perspective, the patented design and the accused product looked extremely similar or nearly identical.

The point of novelty issue was extensively discussed and ultimately abolished by the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in the Egyptian Goddess case. The same standard has now been adopted in Taiwan, which shows that the TIPO continues to monitor international developments and trends in intellectual property to see where modifications may be needed.

We are confident that the incorporation of Egyptian Goddess into the determination of design patent infringement in Taiwan will result in more consistent decisions handed down by the IP Court and a more predictable scope of protection for design patent holders.

For more information on patent matters, please contact Peter Dernbach at pdernbach@winklerpartners.com or Betty Chen at betty@winklerpartners.com.

2016 Taiwan data protection and privacy overviews

Winkler Partners’ Chen Hui-ling and Michael Fahey have contributed overviews of data protection and privacy in Taiwan to Thomson Reuters’ Practical Law.

These resources are drafted in a question and answer format that allows practitioners to easily compare Taiwanese data protection and privacy laws to the corresponding laws in other jurisdictions. The data protection overview covers the 2015 amendments to Taiwan’ Personal Information Privacy Act (the “PIPA”) that came into force earlier this year.

These articles are part of Practical Law’s global guide to data protection. A full list of contents can be viewed here

To compare answers across multiple jurisdictions, visit the Data Protection Country Q&A tool and the Privacy Country Q&A tool.

Chen Hui-ling has written extensively on Taiwan’s data protection legislation, most recently for Privacy Laws and Business’ International Report on the latest amendments to the PIPA.  Hui-ling is also a member of the Asian Privacy Scholars Network.

For more information on data protection or privacy matters in Taiwan, please contact Chen Hui-ling at hchen@winklerpartners.com or +886 223112345 ext. 555.

Mass layoffs in Taiwan: A guide for employers

When an employer needs to dismiss a certain amount of its Taiwan workforce over a defined period of time, the employer must comply with the provisions of the Act for Worker Protection of Mass Redundancy (the “MRA”). Any employer who does not follow the procedures under the MRA may be subject to administrative fines of up to NT$500,000. Mass layoffs are quickly becoming a prominent issue in Taiwan, with a total of 4,357 employees reported to the Ministry of Labor having been laid off during the period of January to April 2016 alone.

As Taiwan is not an at-will termination jurisdiction, any termination must comply with the Labor Standards Act (the “LSA”). Any employee termination in Taiwan must be made pursuant to one or more of the specific causes set forth under Article 11 and 12 of the LSA, and the employer must provide advance notice (or an amount in lieu thereof), severance pay, and any outstanding payments or benefits where an employee is terminated for any of the causes stipulated under Article 11. The most commonly used causes for termination under the LSA are where the employer’s business suffers operating losses or business contractions, where the employer’s business is transferred, or where there is a change in the nature of the business which necessitates a reduction of workforce.

The Ministry of Labor has the power to restrict the representatives or responsible persons of an employer from leaving Taiwan if the employer does not meet its obligations under the MRA. While the LSA sets statutory entitlements for all employees in Taiwan, the MRA must be followed where an employer intends to terminate a significant portion of its workforce over a defined period of time.

Whether the MRA applies to the employer’s intended layoff plan hinges on the number of employees[1] the employer intends to lay off at each separate office location or work site (each, a “Site”). The employer will be subject to the provisions of the MRA when the number of employees to be laid off at any particular Site exceeds any one or more of the thresholds set out in the table below. These thresholds are based on (i) the number of employees at each Site and (ii) how many of these employees the employer intends to lay off either (a) in a single day, or (b) over the course of sixty days.

No. of Employees at Site Time Period No. of Employees to be Laid Off
< 30 60 days > 10 employees
30 – 200 1 day > 20 employees
60 days > 1/3 of workforce
200 – 500 1 day > 50 employees
60 days > 1/4 of workforce
> 500 1 day > 80 employees
60 days > 1/5 of workforce
Any Number 1 day > 100 employees
60 days > 200 employees



If the number of employees that an employer intends to lay off for any given Site exceeds the applicable single day or sixty day threshold set forth above, then the MRA will apply.  Pursuant to the MRA, the employer must create a mass layoff plan (a “Plan”) for each Site where the thresholds are exceeded. Each Plan must include:

  • the cause of the mass layoff;
  • the department(s) of the business entity affected by the mass layoff;
  • the scheduled effective date of the mass layoff;
  • the number of employees to be laid off;
  • the criteria for selecting the employees to be laid off;
  • the method for calculating severance pay; and
  • whether the employer will provide any job transition assistance to affected employees.

The Plan must provide the affected employees with at least their minimum statutory entitlements upon termination as set out under the LSA.

An employer seeking to implement a Plan must notify the relevant authorities/agencies or personnel in the following order:  (i) local labor authority; (ii) labor union/ labor representatives; (iii) the employees to be laid off.  Actual notification requirements for each of these three groups are set forth below:

  1. Local labor authority. The employer must firstly submit the Plan to the relevant local labor authority. The relevant local labor authority is typically the Department of Labor of the local government nearest the Site.
  2. Labor union/ labor representatives. If a labor union exists within the business entity at the Site, then the employer must first notify the relevant labor union of the Plan. Absent a labor union, the employer must notify the labor representatives of the labor management committee or conference (the “LMC”).
  3. Employees. If the Site has no applicable union or LMC, the employer must deliver the Plan to the employees in the department(s) of the Site affected by the Plan. Delivery to these employees must be made publicly, and can be done via email or by posting a visible notice and copy of the Plan at each Site.

The above groups must be notified of any Plan at least 60 days prior to the proposed first termination date. Once notification has occurred, the affected employees and employer must enter into negotiations within 10 days from the start of this 60-day period. An employer cannot dismiss or transfer any of the employees involved in the mass layoff during this negotiation period.

If an agreement between the employer and employees is not reached within 10 days from the commencement of negotiations, the relevant local labor authority will invite the employer and employees to form a negotiating committee to finalize the terms of the Plan. This committee is chaired by a representative of the relevant local labor authority and typically meets every two weeks until an agreement is reached. Where a negotiating committee is formed, the local labor authority will dispatch consulting, employment services and vocational training personnel to the Site to assist affected employees. Employers must set times for such personnel to provide assistance.

At the expiry of the 60-day period, the employer can implement the Plan, provided the laid-off employees are provided all their statutory entitlements under the LSA.

While employers can offer more generous severance packages than that mandated under the LSA, it is not necessary to do so.  If an employer seeking to implement a Plan believes that their legal basis for the layoff under the LSA is not strong enough or there is insufficient evidence to support the cause for termination, a more generous package that the statutory minimums offered under the LSA can be provided to the affected employees in order to facilitate a more efficient mass layoff process and reduce the risk of future disputes arising.  Generally speaking, Taiwan employees are acutely aware of their minimum entitlements and are likely to try to negotiate for better terms of their termination.

For more information on Taiwan employment matters, please email Christine Chen at cchen@winklerpartners.com or call +886 (0) 223112345 ext. 307.


[1] For the purposes of the MRA, “employees” does not include foreign employees working under work permits or employees on fixed-term contracts.

WP recognized for our diversity efforts

Winkler Partners has been recognized for our diversity efforts in Asian Legal Business’ 2016 Diversity List. Only ten law firms with an Asia presence were included in the list. According to Asian Legal Business (ALB), the list aims to “highlight firms in Asia that have developed a solid strategy when it comes to fostering diversity and inclusion, currently have programs in place to back up this strategy, and have made measurable progress in this regards”.

We were noted for our high ratio of both female and LGBT colleagues (over 50% and 9% respectively) as well as our commitment to providing continuing legal education opportunities to all staff. We were also praised for our “flat organizational structure that encourages coordination in place of management and discussions in which each member’s voice is valued”. According to ALB, we have “innovative programs aimed at championing women in the workplace”.

You can read about the ten firms on the 2016 Diversity List here.

A door opens: alternative remedies in Taiwan trademark squatting cases

In cases involving trademark squatters, the main remedies available to brand owners are filing an invalidation or opposition action against the squatter with the Taiwan Intellectual Property Office (“TIPO”) in an attempt to cancel or revoke the registration.

However, the statute of limitations bars a brand owner from filing an invalidation or opposition if five years have elapsed since registration of the mark. It is often the case that a brand owner does not discover the squatted mark soon enough and it is left without an administrative remedy.

A relatively recent judgment (2014) issued by the Taiwan Intellectual Property Court (the “IP Court”) held that Taiwan’s Civil Code and Fair Trade Act provide causes of action sounding in tort against a person who registers a trademark in bad faith. Min Gong Su Zi No, 5 (102). While the judgment does not create a precedent and was not appealed, it is significant because the statute of limitations in a tort action is two years from discovery of the harm or ten years from the time of the injury.

In other words, the door is open to seek alternative relief under the Civil Code and Fair Trade Act  even after the statute of limitations for an invalidation or cancellation has run.

In the instant case, a mark was registered in Taiwan and 16 other  jurisdictions despite having been registered for decades in leading European and North American jurisdictions. This conduct was held to be a intentional tort offending against good morals (Civil Code §184(1)) because it violated the Fair Trade Act’s catch-all prohibition against deceptive or obviously unfair conduct that interferes with the proper functioning of the market (Fair Trade Act §25).

The IP Court held that “the filing of these applications (by the Defendant) seems an attempt to free ride on the hard-won reputation of the Plaintiff’s mark for economic benefit and thus has adversely affected the trading order. This conduct violates business competition ethics and constitute violations of Article 24 of the Fair Trade Act.[1] The IP Court further held that the Defendant’s prior knowledge of the brand, and the effort and resources spent by the Plaintiff in attempting to cancel the registrations in multiple jurisdictions constituted dishonest commercial practice that caused the Plaintiff to suffer economic injury.

As a result, the IP Court awarded the plaintiff brand owner compensatory damages and issued an order directing the defendant to abandon its rights to the mark in Taiwan.

For more information on trademark enforcement matters in Taiwan, please contact Gary Kuo at gkuo@winklerpartners.com or +886 223112345 ext. 534.


[1] After February 2015 amendments to the FTA, Article 24 became Article 25.

 

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