Thu, Mar 14, 2019 - Page 1 News List

TutorABC suits making other schools protest

PUSHBACK:TutorABC’s lawsuits disrupt fair trade and strive to corner the online English teaching market, cram schools said at a news conference

By Chang Wen-chuan, Rachel Lin and Sherry Hsiao  /  Staff reporters, with staff writer

AMC Language School president Peter Hsu on Tuesday attends a news conference in Taipei on Tuesday concerning trademark infringement lawsuits filed by TutorABC against rival language schools.

Photo: Chang Wen-chuan, Taipei Times

Language cram schools are fighting back after TutorABC (麥奇數位) filed a series of trademark infringement lawsuits against some of its rivals using “tutor” in their names.

Sixteen language schools — including Kojen English Centers (科見美語), AMC Language School (空中美語) and Jeda Language Institute (職達外語) — on Tuesday held a joint news conference in response to the lawsuits, saying that “tutor” is a common noun and should not be used exclusively by TutorABC.

More than 10 tutoring companies have been taken to court and forced to change their names, the language schools said.

TutorABC’s actions “disrupt fair trade” and attempt to monopolize the online English teaching market, they said, urging the Fair Trade Commission to intervene.

In the first trial, in which TutorABC sued AMC Language School for using the trademark “Tutor 4U,” the Intellectual Property Court in a first ruling ordered AMC Language School to stop using the trademark and compensate TutorABC NT$10 million (US$323,520 at the current exchange rate).

The ruling was appealed and TutorABC has reportedly increased the amount of the damages sought to NT$70 million.

TutorABC has more than 4,000 foreign consultants in 60 nations and offers 10 million online courses, the court said, adding that the tutoring company has invested a large sum of money in advertising and become a famous trademark.

As the trademarks are highly similar and both companies offer online tutoring, consumers could easily become confused, it said.

Courts in other countries, including China, do not allow “tutor” to be listed as a proper noun, AMC Language School founder Peter Hsu (胥宏達) said.

The Alibaba Group (阿里巴巴) is a main shareholder of TutorABC, and the Ministry of Economic Affairs has determined that it is a Chinese-funded company, he added.

It is using its considerable financial means to file lawsuits and force local businesses to change their names, he said.

If it loses a lawsuit, it continues to appeal, he said, adding that TutorABC’s litigation has “overwhelmed” other businesses in the industry.

This is the Intellectual Property Office’s responsibility, Jeda Language Institute said, adding that the court should not be involved.

Although TutorABC receives funds from Alibaba Group, it said that the amount is not high enough for the government to designate it as a Chinese-funded company.

TutorABC said it welcomes competition, but added that it would exercise its right to go before the judiciary when firms use similar brands and confuse customers.

Commission chairwoman Huang Mei-ying (黃美瑛) said she believed there was “room for dispute” in the case, as she considered “tutor” as a common word.

Additional reporting by Liao Chien-ying

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