hanghai Minhang People’s Court  Third-Tribunal No. 154 Civil Judgment
Shanghai Intellectual Property Court Civil Appeal No. 14 Civil Judgment
Procedural History: Shanghai Pafuluo Stationery Co., Ltd. (represented by Lung Tin) sued Shanghai Art Imagine Stationery Co. Ltd. and Shanghai Europe Crocodile Stationery Co. Ltd. before Shanghai Minhang People’s Court for copyright infringement on the basis that defendants plagiarize and counterfeit Pafuluo’swebsite homepage. The court ruled in favor of Pafuluo. Dissatisfied with the ruling, Art Imagine and Europe Crocodile appealed to Shanghai Intellectual Property Court.
Issues: Whether the Pafuluo’swebsitehomepage is copyrightable, and whether the defendants’ websitesconstitute copyright infringement.
Held (by the first and second instance courts): Yes, the Pafuluo’s website homepage is entitled to copyright protection as it meets the threshold of originality and reproducibility; and yes, the defendants’ websites infringe Pafuluo copyright, as the Pafuluo’s and defendants’ websites, as a whole, are essentially the same in page color, way of product display, text layout and so on, and therefore constitute substantial similarity.
The court’s holding and discussions:In finding the infringement, the courts pointed out:
1. The Pafuluo’s website homepage is copyrightable. A webpage which is a base document written with a hypertext markup language, is stored in a digital form in a storage device of a computer, is shown in multimedia effects such as texts, images, sounds, a combination thereof and so on through a web browser in an output device of a computer, and can be replicated in various forms. Whether the content in the webpage or the overall interface layout effect is original is the key of whether the copyright protection is obtained. In this case, the content in the homepage of the Pafuluo website involved is combined with texts, images and animation effects in digital forms, a unique color selection, and a unique page layout. Although colors, texts, the way of product display and an animation effect of twinkling stars used in said webpage are from the public domain as far as a single element, the designer of the webpage has made specific combinations of the above each element in a digital way rather than simple arrangements, providing people with a visual aesthetic feeling. The selections of colors and contents, and the layout arrangements embody a unique concept, have originality and replicability, and constitute works asserted in the Copyright Law.
2. The Pafuluo’s copyright is infringed. The website homepages of defendants differ from that of the Pafuluo website in details. However, whatever background colors, page arrangements, or proportion layout of each section, the positions and ways of the product display, etc. are essentially the same as the expression means of the Pafuluo’s websitehomepage, and constitute substantial similarity. The defendants did not prove that the identical parts of the expression means were created independently. Furthermore, both the dates of IPC recordation of the involved websites and the dates of publishing articles in the webpages of the Art Imagine company and the Europe Crocodile company were later than the completing date of the Pafuluo website. As business competitors of the Pafuluocompany, they have an opportunity to contact the contents of the Pafuluo website from the Internet. For the above, the court affirmed that the Art Imagine company and the Europe Crocodile company, without the consent from the Pafuluo company, arbitrarily placed the pages which are substantially similar to the home page of the Pafuluo website involved into the information network. They had constituted a conduct infringing the right of network dissemination of works information on the webpage of the website involved, and shall undertake corresponding responsibility.
Comments from Lung Tin Attorney Mr.Xiaobing WANG:
The case involves a legal issue whether the content arrangements of the webpage constitute copyrightable works. Although the homepage of the website involved contains some factors in the public domain, the homepage of the website involved, except columns and structural elements which a general company website has, embodies a unique concept in painting color, selection of the contents, way of display, layout arrangement and so on, presents a certain effect of visual art, and has originality and replicability, so that it constitutes works asserted in the Copyright Law. In respect of whether the webpage constitutes works, the contents on the webpage shall be strictly filtered according to “dichotomy of ideas and expression”. The contents which belong to ideas shall be removed, and the contents which belong to “expression” shall then be originally judged. Therefore, this case is a typical case which involves elaboration and analysis of criteria for judging that the webpage works can be protected by the Copyright Law, and has certain guiding significance for the same type of cases.
This case has ever been selected as one of Supreme People’s Court’s typical cases and Shanghai Intellectual Property Court’s top ten cases in 2015, respectively.