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Features

In-depth treatment of selected topics in Taiwan law for legal professionals

Exemptions to Taiwan’s work permit requirements: the Consultation Mechanism

Taiwan’s work permit requirements may appear to be inflexible but little-known exemptions are readily available for two requirements: minimum employer capitalization/revenue and minimum post-graduate work experience.

The Basic Requirements

Most foreign professionals in Taiwan other than teachers are employed in Class A professional and technical work.

To hire a foreign professional for Class A work, the foreign job candidate’s prospective employer must apply for a work permit from the Ministry of Labor’s Workforce Development Agency (the “WDA”).

In general, four basic requirements must be met:

  1. the capitalization/revenue requirement for the employer
  2. education/experience requirements for the employee
  3. the job must be a professional or technical job, and
  4. a minimum monthly salary of NT $47,971

Exemptions are available for the capitalization/revenue requirement and the work experience requirement. No exemptions are available for jobs that do not fall within the scope of professional and technical work. There are also no exemptions to the minimum monthly salary of NT$47,791 for foreign professionals who hold a non-Taiwan degree.

Capitalization/revenue requirement

To hire a Class A foreign professional, the employer must be a new business with NT$5 million in registered capital or an existing business with NT$10 million in revenue in the preceding year (or average NT$10 million revenue over the past three years).

Education and Experience Requirement

To be hired, a foreign professional must generally have a college degree and two years of related post-graduate work experience.

Exemptions

Exemptions are available through what the Ministry of Labor calls the “Consultation Mechanism.”[1]

If an employer does not meet the capital/revenue requirement, the employer should attach this form (in Chinese) to the work permit application.

If the job candidate does not have two years of post-college work experience relevant to the job, the employer should attach this form (in Chinese) to the work permit application.

Please note that foreign job candidates generally cannot apply for work permits or exemptions on their own. Their employer must apply for permission to hire the job candidate.

High Approval Rates

Exemptions under the Consultation Mechanism have been available since 2010. Partial statistics from the WDA show that exemptions are granted in response to most applications. Between 2010 and 2015, 176 employers applied for exemptions to minimum capital/revenue requirements. 156 (89%) of these applications were approved. Similarly, 50 employers applied for exemptions to the two year work experience requirement during the same period. 47 of the applications were approved, yielding a 94% approval rate.

While approval rates are high, the number of applications is strikingly low. This is probably explained by the fact that until recently the WDA did not have clear guidance on the Consultation Mechanism either in English or Chinese.

EZ WORK Taiwan: Information on Consultation Mechanism and Work Permits in General

In late 2016 however, the WDA added a new section to its excellent EZ WORK Taiwan website that gives comprehensive information about the Consultation Mechanism in both Chinese and English. Foreign professional job candidates can familiarize themselves with the Consultation Mechanism in English here. Since HR departments at Taiwanese companies are unlikely to be familiar with the Consultation Mechanism, job candidates can refer prospective employers to the same information in Chinese here.

More generally, the EZ WORK Taiwan website provides comprehensive information in both English and Chinese for Class A professional and technical work permits as well as bilingual information about other types of professional work permits including those for teachers, artists, and performers. Again, referring prospective employers to the Chinese side of the site can be very useful especially if you are the first foreign hire at a given company.

Special Rules for Graduates of Taiwanese Universities and Qualified Startups

It should be noted that special rules apply to foreign graduates of Taiwanese universities and to employees at qualified startups. These special rules are outside the scope of this article but more information about the Points System for foreign graduates of Taiwanese universities can be found here. Employees of qualified startups are not subject to the two year experience requirement.


[1] 會商機制 (huishang jizhi)

Amendments to Labor Standards Act passed

After lengthy discussion and public debate, amendments to the Labor Standards Act (“LSA”) were passed after its third reading on 6 December 2016. The main changes that employment law practitioners, human resource managers, employers and employees must be aware of include:

Changes to annual leave

The qualifying threshold for taking paid annual leave has been reduced from one year of service to six months of service. Employees earn additional annual leave based on years of service up to a maximum of 30 days per year. Minimum annual leave allowances as of 1 January 2017, when the new rules go into effect, are:

  • More than six months but less than one year; 3 days
  • More than one year but less than two years; 7 days
  • More than two years but less than three years; 10 days
  • More than three years but less than five years; 14 days
  • More than five years but less than ten years; 15 days and
  • Over ten years; one extra day of annual leave per year up to a maximum of 30 days.

Unused annual paid leave days must be cashed out by the end of each year of service. Failure to do so may lead to an administrative fine of between NT$20,000 and NT$1 million (approximately US$630 and US$31,500).

Elimination of national holidays

Seven national holidays have been eliminated for private sector workers. This is to make up the difference in time away from work when Taiwan switched from a 48 hour workweek to a 40 hour workweek earlier this year. When remaining national holidays occur on rest days (usually a weekend), employers must provide another day off for employees. The national holidays which have been eliminated include:

  • The day after the Founding Day of the Republic of China (January 2);
  • Revolutionary Martyrs’ Day (March 29);
  • Confucius’ Birthday (September 28);
  • President Chiang Kai-shek’s Birthday (October 31);
  • Taiwan’s Retrocession Day (October 25);
  • Dr. Sun Yat-sen’s Birthday (November 12) and
  • Constitution Day (December 25).

Implementation of a five-day work, two-day rest week

The changes provide for two rest days in seven, an increase from one rest day in seven. This brings the rest of the private sector into line with the public sector and most office-based industries. Of the two rest days, one is a mandatory day off; the other is flexible. An employee cannot agree to work on the mandatory rest day. The employee may agree to work on the flexible rest day but higher overtime rates will apply.

Overtime on flexible rest days

Employees and employers need to be aware of the new overtime calculations for flexible rest days:

  • Between 0 and 2 hours; 1.34 times regular hourly wage
  • Between 3 and 12 hours; 1.67 times regular hourly wage

Actual time worked will now be calculated at the top end of three four-hour periods. Less than 4 hours worked will be counted as the employee having worked four hours; between four and eight hours will count as eight hours and between eight and twelve hours will count as twelve hours. In other words, if an employee agrees to work on a flexible rest day and only works one hour, she must be paid for four hours at the increased overtime rate.

The above amendments will come into force once they are promulgated by the President. The changes to annual leave and elimination of national holidays will come into force on 1 January, 2017.

For more information on employment law matters, 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.

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.

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.

Successor liability in asset purchases in Taiwan

This article briefly explores under what circumstances a Buyer involved in a corporate asset purchase might be subject to successor liability in Taiwan. This question would obviously be relevant to any foreign Buyer purchasing Taiwan corporate assets, whether in a one-off transaction or as part of a larger global acquisition.

Anyone that has been involved in an asset purchase in the United States has likely heard of successor liability. The doctrine of successor liability in the US derives generally from common law (both state and federal) and in a few specific areas from statute. For the more adventuresome soul, there are academic articles of over one hundred pages in length devoted to the myriad variations of successor liability. However, stated simply, successor liability refers to the body of judge-made law and statutes that creates exceptions to the general rule of no successor liability in the context of asset acquisitions. This simple definition will suffice for the purposes of this short article.

As a threshold matter, it is important to note that Taiwan is a civil law jurisdiction. Therefore, most law related to successor liability is derived from statute. Apart from this distinction, the analysis in Taiwan begins, as it does in the US, with the general doctrine that no liability is transferred to Buyer in an asset acquisition.

Again, as in the US, there is the obvious exception that liabilities may be transferred to Buyer if Buyer has assumed such liabilities. Although Taiwan courts have decided cases on the express assumption of liabilities, the courts offer little guidance on the exact contractual language which would specifically disclaim the transfer of such liabilities.

Theoretically, Taiwan also has successor liability based on a de facto merger rule. Taiwan’s Civil Code provides that a court may re-characterize an asset purchase transaction as a merger if the court determines that despite taking the form of an asset purchase, the substantive result of such transaction is a merger of Buyer’s and Seller’s businesses. If a de facto merger is deemed to have occurred, Buyer would inherit all liabilities of Seller. However, to date Taiwan courts have not heard a related case.  It is unclear what factors would be instructive as to whether an ostensible asset purchase rose to the level of a de facto merger.

In addition to rules related to express assumption of liabilities and de facto mergers, Taiwan has a number of statutory provisions in its Civil Code designed to provide relief to any person (“Creditor”) (i) originally owed an obligation (financial or otherwise) by Seller and (ii) who has been denied the ability to enforce such obligation due to a spurious or disingenuous asset sale, i.e. a fraudulent transfer. It is important to note that the definition of Creditors for the purposes of Taiwan law in this area is very broad. It is not limited to financial creditors, but would include a wide range of persons who have valid claims to enforce monetary or performance obligations against Seller, e.g., employees who are owed back pay or pension amounts, product liability claimants, etc.

In addition to the general anti-fraud provisions of Taiwan’s Civil Code, Taiwan’s Business Mergers and Acquisitions Act (“BMAA”) contains a procedural mechanism to inhibit fraudulent transfers. Pursuant to the BMAA, any Seller intending to transfer all or substantially all of its assets must notify its Creditors of such transfer. Seller must then allow Creditors thirty days to object to the transfer. If Seller fails to provide notice and allow sufficient time for Creditors’ response or does not otherwise provide for the settlement of obligations owed to its Creditors, the asset sale would be invalid with respect to later objecting Creditors. Such Creditors could theoretically enforce their rights against the purchased assets, even after such assets were transferred to Buyer. Any such enforcement action would likely encounter a considerable number of substantive and procedural difficulties but is theoretically possible. Again, there exist no Taiwan judicial opinions on point in this area.

In short, Taiwan statutes provide a theoretical basis for successor liability in Taiwan. However, there is limited judicial guidance as to specific application. Under these circumstances, Buyers would do well to foreclose the possibility of inadvertently acquiring unwanted liabilities by (i) conducting thorough legal diligence to identify potential unwanted liabilities; (ii) entering into well-drafted purchase agreements pursuant to which (A) Seller makes adequate representations and warranties with respect to, and (B) Buyer expressly excludes the assumption of, any such liabilities; (iii) refraining from conduct that would indicate Buyer’s assumption of any excluded liabilities; (iv) ensuring that Seller properly notifies all of its Creditors of any proposed sale of all or substantially all of its assets; (v) having Seller make adequate indemnifications; and (vi) if possible, providing for an escrow fund against which indemnification obligations may be claimed.

For more information on mergers, acquisitions, and foreign investment matters in Taiwan, please contact Gregory Buxton at gbuxton@winklerpartners.com or +886 223112345 ext. 548.

Amendments to Taiwan data protection law take effect

Amendments to Articles 6-8, 11, 15, 16, 19, 20, 41, 45, 53, and 54 of Taiwan’s Personal Information Protection Act (“PIPA“) took force on 15 March 2016. The most important change is that Taiwan now has enhanced protection for special categories of sensitive data. At the same time, compliance with Taiwan’s data protection rules has been made easier by relaxing the consent requirement for ordinary personal data and reducing the risk of criminal liability for violations of the PIPA.

Sensitive Personal Data

The legislative rationale for enhanced protection of sensitive personal data is that “unregulated collection, processing, and use of certain types of personal data…[is likely to]… give rise to social disquiet and cause irreparable harm to the data subject.” PIPA §6 Legislative Comment (1). For purposes of this overview, processing will be used as a collective shorthand for the collection, processing, and using personal data although it should be kept in mind that the PIPA defines each of these acts separately. A data subject simply means the natural person who is identified by the personal data. PIPA §2.

Categories of Sensitive Data

Article 6 enumerates the following special categories of sensitive data:

  1. medical records,
  2. medical treatment [data],
  3. genetic data
  4. sexuality,
  5. health examination results, and
  6. criminal records.

Precise definitions of these terms are given in the Enforcement Rules of the Personal Information Protection Act (the “Enforcement Rules“). For example, ‘sexuality’ means sexual orientation and practices. Enforcement Rules §4.

Processing these six categories of sensitive data is prohibited and subject to criminal and civil liability unless an exception applies.

Permitted Exceptions

The PIPA permits the following exceptions to the general prohibition on the processing of sensitive personal data:

  1. another law expressly permits processing,
  2. there is a statutory duty or obligation to process sensitive personal data,
  3. voluntary disclosure by the data subject or other lawful disclosure, or
  4. for purposes of medical, public health, and criminology research by government agencies or academic institutions
  5. assisting in a statutory duty or obligation to collect, process, or use the sensitive personal data, and
  6. valid written consent by the data subject. PIPA §§6(1)(1)-(6).

PIPA §6(1)(5) and §6(1)(6) are new exceptions. PIPA §6(1)(5) is best understood as complementing §6(1)(2). Under §6(1)(2), a public agency’s statutory authority and duties may make it necessary for the agency to process sensitive personal data. For example, municipal health authorities have a duty to assess the risk of domestic violence under §8(9) of the Domestic Violence Prevention Act. To carry out this duty, a municipal health authority may collect and process medical treatment records obtained from a hospital pursuant §6(1)(2). The hospital may assist the municipal health authority in carrying out this duty by providing the medical treatment records under §6(1)(5).

Sensitive data may now be processed with written consent from the data subject. Consent is not valid if the processing of the sensitive data exceeds the scope of the consented purpose or if obtained under duress. §6(1)(6) Written consent may be in the form of an electronic record. Enforcement Rules §14. With the addition of a consent exception for the processing of sensitive data, Taiwan’s rules for sensitive data are more consistent with those found in leading European jurisdictions such as Germany.

Ordinary Personal Data

Previously written consent was required to collect ordinary personal data. As of 15 March 2016, any “declaration of assent” to an initial processing of data is valid so long as the data subject has been informed of the purpose of the data processing and their rights under the PIPA. In other words, written, oral, or even implied consent to the initial processing of data is valid. PIPA §7(1).

Similarly, written consent is no longer required for processing data for a new purpose beyond the original purpose so long as the data subject has been informed of the new purpose and the possible consequences of not consenting. This consent must however be given in an independent declaration. PIPA §7(2).

Presumption of Consent

One of the most important new changes to the PIPA is the creation of a presumption of consent to an initial processing of data where:

  1. the data controller has informed the data subject of the purpose of the data processing and their rights under the PIPA
  2. the data subject does not reject the request to process the data subject’s personal data
  3. the data subject nonetheless provides their personal data to the data controller. PIPA §7(3).

No such presumption arises to extended processing of ordinary personal data beyond the scope of the initial purpose.

Although the relaxed consent requirements and the presumption of consent should make it easier for data controllers to comply with the PIPA, it should be noted that the burden of proof with respect to consent remains with the data controller at all times. §7(4)

Criminal Liability

Finally, criminal liability no longer attaches for processing personal data in violation of the PIPA where the data controller or processor merely has general intent with respect to the prohibited conduct. Previously, a data controller or processor who generally intended to collect, process, or use personal data in violation of the PIPA could face up to two years in prison. Now the data controller or processor must have a specific intent in the form of an unlawful purpose or to harm the rights and interests of another to trigger criminal liability (up to five years’ imprisonment).

Constitución de empresas en Taiwán: Introducción

This is a Spanish translation of our English article “Setting up a business in Taiwan: the basics”, which you can find here.
Esta es la traducción al español de nuestro artículo en inglés “Setting up a business in Taiwan: the basics”, el cuál se encuentra disponible aquí.

Taiwán se encuentra altamente calificada en la Lista de Competitividad Global del Foro Económico Mundial y en la Lista de Facilidad de Hacer Negocios del Banco Mundial. Con fuertes lazos comerciales, aéreos, y de transporte con China, Japón, el Sudeste Asiático y Silicon Valley, Taiwán es un núcleo conveniente para hacer negocios con el resto de Asia y otros países. Internamente, Taiwán también cuenta con un sistema sofisticado de transporte doméstico. Taiwán alberga un sector de investigación y desarrollo robusto, una infraestructura avanzada, un clima político estable con libertad de prensa, un marco legal sólido y un personal dinámico y altamente preparado. Estos factores hacen que el número de empresas internacionales que prefieren constituir su matriz regional en Taiwán vaya incrementando considerablemente.

Las empresas que desean establecer operaciones comerciales en Taiwán por lo general optan por uno de los siguientes tipos societarios: una oficina de representación, una sucursal, una sociedad de responsabilidad limitada, o una sociedad anónima. A continuación presentamos una breve introducción de estos tipos societarios y las circunstancias en las que cada uno es generalmente aplicable.

Oficina de Representación

Muchas entidades extranjeras prefieren establecer una Oficina de Representación en Taiwán como primer paso antes de tomar el compromiso más grande de establecer una sucursal o subsidiaria. El establecimiento de una Oficina de Representación es una de las formas más sencillas de instaurar una presencia comercial en Taiwán. Sin embargo, una Oficina de Representación se encuentra muy limitada en las actividades que puede desarrollar. Una Oficina de Representación solo puede operar como el agente de su empresa matriz extranjera y no posee personalidad jurídica independiente. La Oficina de Representación no puede ejercer actividades comerciales de lucro ni actuar como principal en cualquier transacción comercial doméstica. Tampoco se encuentra permitida de vender o proporcionar servicios en Taiwán. Por lo general, una Oficina de Representación funciona como agente de ventas o compras para empresas internacionales que no tienen presencia en Taiwán. Las Oficinas de Representación también son utilizadas en Taiwán para proporcionar soporte técnico, capacitación, como también supervisión de controles de calidad.

Sucursal

Una empresa extranjera también puede optar por constituir una Sucursal para el manejo de sus negocios en Taiwán. Así como una Oficina de Representación, una Sucursal no tiene personería jurídica independiente, por lo que no tiene accionistas, directores ni supervisores, características que son propias de una subsidiaria. Por tanto, los costos de mantenimiento de una Sucursal son más bajos que los de una subsidiaria. La mayor ventaja de establecer una Sucursal en lugar de una subsidiaria es que todas las utilidades después de impuestos pueden ser legalmente remitidos a la matriz extranjera sin incurrir en impuestos adicionales en Taiwán. Asimismo, la mayor desventaja de una Sucursal es que es una extensión de su matriz extranjera, y por tanto, la matriz queda legalmente responsable por todos los actos de la Sucursal. El establecimiento de una Sucursal es más apropiado en situaciones donde considerables montos de dinero van a ser expatriados al país de la matriz desde Taiwán. Las Sucursales también son utilizadas en proyectos infraestructurales de gran escala ya que el gobierno Taiwanés y la mayoría de las contrapartes comerciales precisan tener acceso a los bienes de la matriz extranjera en caso de que la Sucursal taiwanesa incurra en incumplimiento de contrato.

Sociedad Limitada

Además de las Oficinas de Representación y Sucursales, las cuales son meramente extensiones de la empresa matriz extranjera, las empresas extranjeras también pueden optar por establecer una subsidiaria en Taiwán. El vehículo societario más simple para el establecimiento de una subsidiaria es la Sociedad Limitada. Las Sociedades Limitadas en Taiwán tienen una estructura similar a las sociedades de responsabilidad limitada de los Estados Unidos. Las Sociedades Limitadas taiwanesas están compuestas por uno o más socios, donde cada socio es responsable hasta el monto de su aporte al capital de la empresa. La Sociedad Limitada, a diferencia de la Sociedad Anónima (descrita a continuación), provee más flexibilidad en la estructura de su gobierno corporativo. El costo de esta flexibilidad, sin embargo, son las limitaciones que existen en la transferencia de los intereses sobre la Sociedad Limitada. Si un director desea transferir sus intereses en la compañía, dicha transferencia debe ser aprobada por todos los demás socios de la compañía. Cualquier otro socio que desee transferir sus intereses en la compañía debe obtener la aprobación de la mayoría de los demás socios. Por lo general las empresas extranjeras optan por establecer una subsidiaria en Taiwán por medio de una Sociedad Limitada cuando la subsidiaria va a estar bajo el control total de la empresa extranjera.

Sociedad Limitada por Acciones

Inversores internacionales y empresarios optan por establecer una subsidiaria mediante una Sociedad Limitada por Acciones cuando existe la posibilidad de vender parte de sus intereses en la subsidiaria taiwanesa. Una Sociedad Limitada por Acciones tiene una estructura similar a la de una corporación en Estados Unidos. La responsabilidad de los accionistas queda limitada al aporte de cada accionista al capital de la sociedad, donde dicho aporte es representado por acciones. Una Sociedad Limitada por Acciones está sujeta a ciertos requisitos corporativos: debe tener accionistas (por lo menos dos personas naturales o una persona jurídica), directores (por lo menos tres) y un supervisor (por lo menos uno). Una Sociedad Limitada por Acciones, a diferencia de una Sociedad Limitada, está habilitada para convertirse en pública y cotizar en bolsa.

Effects of Taiwan’s foreign investment regulations on acquisitions

We strongly encourage any foreign individual, company or corporation (a “Foreign Buyer”) that is contemplating the acquisition of either (i) a Taiwan company Target (a “Taiwan Target”) or (ii) an offshore Target (an “Offshore Target”) that has a Taiwan subsidiary, to consider the effects of Taiwan’s foreign investment regulations on the planned transaction. While Taiwan’s foreign investment regulations can directly impact the structure of such an acquisition, an equally important, but often overlooked, issue is the effect these regulations may have on post-acquisition reorganization and operation of the Target.

Pursuant to Taiwan’s Statute for Investment by Foreign Nationals, any direct acquisition of a Taiwan Target by a Foreign Buyer requires Foreign Investment Approval (“FIA”). In addition to the obvious effect that obtaining the FIA would have on the timing of the acquisition, the related FIA regulations may also affect the transaction structure. For instance, the FIA regulations make it practically impossible to structure a direct acquisition of a Taiwan Target with any type of holdback, earn out or other form of deferred payment mechanism. (See our article here for more information on the effects of the FIA process on deferred payment mechanisms as well as a convenient workaround.)

In a large global acquisition, Foreign Buyer may be transacting with an offshore Seller to purchase an Offshore Target that has subsidiaries worldwide, including in Taiwan. Under these circumstances, FIA is typically not required in Taiwan. A common exception to this general rule arises when (i) Offshore Target’s Taiwan subsidiary has minority shareholders and (ii) these minority shareholders will have their shares purchased by either the Offshore Target or the Foreign Buyer as part of the transaction. FIA is required under these circumstances as there is a direct transfer of Taiwan assets (i.e., the shares in the Taiwan subsidiary) to a foreign purchaser.

Whether FIA is required for Foreign Buyer’s initial acquisition, Foreign Buyer should always consider the impact of the FIA regulations on any expected post-acquisition transactions in Taiwan. Common post-acquisition transactions that require prior FIA include:

(a) injecting equity capital into the Taiwanese subsidiary;

(b) providing a loan to the Taiwanese subsidiary for a term exceeding one year;

(c) investing in another company through the Taiwanese subsidiary;

(d) transferring some or all of the shares in the Taiwanese subsidiary to another person, including any post-acquisition restructuring of Foreign Buyer and related companies which results in the transfer of shares of the Taiwan subsidiary; and

(e) reducing the capital of, or winding down, the Taiwanese subsidiary.

As stated above, any foreign corporation or individual that is contemplating the purchase of a Taiwan Target or an Offshore Target that holds a Taiwan subsidiary should first evaluate Taiwan’s foreign investment regulations, with respect to not only the structuring of the initial acquisition, but also the post-acquisition operations and reorganization of the Target.

For more information on mergers, acquisitions, and foreign investment matters in Taiwan, please contact Gregory Buxton at gbuxton@winklerpartners.com or +886 223112345 ext. 548.

Ten tips for Taiwan employment contracts

Employment in Taiwan has increasingly become a prominent issue, with the number of employment law disputes brought by employees rising significantly in recent years. Below is a list of ten useful tips for Taiwan employers to keep in mind when negotiating and drafting their written employment agreements. While not exhaustive, the following list is aimed at providing some guidance to Taiwan employers in using their employment agreements to address some key issues we regularly come across in our employment law practice.

1. Use a written employment contract

Taiwan has no specific laws or regulations that specifically govern employment contracts, and as such, a degree of flexibility is granted to employers with regard to the format of their employment agreements. While there is no express law that mandates written employment contracts, to ensure clarity and to avoid potential future disputes with employees, in Taiwan it is advisable for employers to use written employment contracts.

2. Use an employee handbook/work rules

Employers who hire 30 or more employees must have an employee handbook or work rules. Even if the threshold of 30 employees has not been met, many companies choose to have separate work rules or an employee handbook, which also forms part of the employment contract. Having a separate (but binding) document which details elements of the employment relationship such as IP rights, discipline and restrictive covenants, affords employers greater security with regard to the mutual rights and obligations arising under the employment contract.

3. Clarify the term of the contract

Employment contracts in Taiwan are indefinite-term contracts unless otherwise specified as fixed-term, and statutory employment rights are enjoyed upon commencement of employment. While probationary periods can form part of employment contracts in Taiwan, as termination in Taiwan is not at-will, but rather must comply with specific requirements under the Labor Standards Act (the “LSA”). Probationary periods which provide for termination are of limited practical use in Taiwan.

4. Protect your intellectual property

It is best practice for employment contracts to clearly define both ownership and creation rights in relation to all existing and potential intellectual property that is within the particular employee’s scope of work. Protection can be enhanced by referring in the contract to the employee handbook or some other written agreement, which in turn details relevant IP rights with greater specificity.

5. Clearly define restrictive covenants

Similar to IP rights, clearly describing the employee’s rights and obligations both during and post-employment with respect to trade secrets, competition, solicitation and confidential information is a crucial aspect of any employment contract in Taiwan. The scope of the restrictions or covenants relating to competition and solicitation must be reasonable, the length of the non-compete clause must be no longer than two years, the employer must have a legitimate interest to be protected, the departed employee’s job duties and position must be sufficient to grant the employee access to the legitimate interest the employer seeks to protect, and the employee must receive reasonable compensation for any loss caused by agreeing to the non-compete clause. If the clause does not conform to the above principles, a Taiwan court will most likely find it to be unenforceable in Taiwan.

6. Comply with relevant laws relating to transfer/severance of employees

When a business entity undergoes restructuring or changes ownership, any employees terminated as a result must be given the requisite advance notice as well as severance payment under the LSA. The LSA lists specific circumstances where an employee can be legally terminated in Taiwan with notice and severance pay, such as where the business transfers ownership or there is a suspension of operations. There are very limited circumstances where an employer may terminate an employee without notice or severance, such as where there is a serious breach of the employment contract or disclosure of business secrets by the employee.

7. Choose the right language

Taiwan courts will enforce both Chinese and English employment contracts, however it is best practice for employers to specifically state that if there is a conflict between the two, which version prevails. In most instances the prevailing version is Chinese.

8. Define jurisdiction and dispute resolution avenues

Employees may apply for mediation, with each local government in Taiwan having an employment center that offers mediation and free legal support to employees involved in disputes with their employers. Taiwan courts have specialized divisions to handle labor-related cases. It is common practice for many employment contracts, particularly for those involving foreign entities or foreign workers, to contain a provision stating that the governing law in the event of a dispute is that of the Republic of China (Taiwan) and that the parties must first use reasonable efforts to come to a negotiated solution through consultation or mediation before resorting to litigation.

9. Detail statutory benefits

Taiwan law mandates that employers who have established a legal entity in Taiwan must contribute to each employee’s National Health Insurance as well as Labor Insurance schemes. These and other benefits (such as labor insurance, parental leave, pension contributions, etc.), which must be paid for by the employer, cannot be unfavorably altered in an employment agreement by the employer.

10. Avoid making changes in working conditions

Restrictions are placed on employers who attempt to change working conditions (such as the place of work) in an employment contract. For example, many international companies wish to be able to dictate their employees’ place of work arbitrarily; however recent amendments to the LSA now provide that employers seeking to do so must abide with some general principles or else be found to have breached both the employment contract and the LSA. These include: (a) the change must be based on the needs of the business and be for a proper purpose, (b) no unfavorable changes can be made to salary or other working conditions, (c) changes must be suited to the specific employee’s skills and abilities, (d) employers must provide assistance to employees if the place of work is inconvenient, and (e) employers must consider the interests of employee’s families and lives.

Keeping in mind the above ten points when drafting your employment agreements can help to avoid potential employment disputes arising in the first place. For more information on employment law matters in Taiwan, please contact Christine Chen cchen@winklerpartners.com or +886 (0) 223112345 extension 307.

 

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