China's most prestigious English language training school, the New Oriental Education Group, is planning to appeal a court verdict ordering it to pay two US education groups US$1.21 million for copyright infringement.
The school Saturday lost a lawsuit filed by the New Jersey-based Educational Testing Service (ETS) and the Virginia-based Graduate Management Admission Council's (GMAC), which alleged New Oriental had illegally copied and sold its tests.
The school was told to stop copying the tests -- the TOEFL, or Test of English as a Foreign Language, the GRE, or Graduate Record Examination, and the GMAT, or Graduate Management Admission Test.
Students from non English-speaking countries have to take the tests before applying to graduate schools in the US.
Xu Xiaoping, a spokesman for New Oriental, said the verdict was unfair and the company would appeal to a higher court, according to the China Daily.
ETS publishes materials in most countries where the tests are held. But in China, which has the largest number of test takers, students have to buy the materials from ETS directly, paying more for the books, China Daily said.
ETS and GMAC officials could not immediately be reached for comment, but the companies were cited by China Daily as saying the lawsuit sought to protect the integrity of the examination system.
Several former students of New Oriental told reporters the company accumulates a large pool of test questions by frequently sending its teachers to take the tests and by buying tests materials from overseas.
The school analyzes previous tests to come up with a list of questions most likely to be asked. Questions and their answers are then drilled into the students, leading some critics to allege Chinese test takers get high scores even though their English skills and knowledge level might be low.
The popularity of the school and its practices reflect the desparate yearning among many Chinese people to study abroad as many believe their future in China's competitive environment is bleak without a degree from abroad.
The amount awarded to the two US firms is relatively high for copyright infringement cases in China, which are rarely won by foreign companies and if won, are awarded nominal compensation.
New Oriental was ordered to hand in all illegal copies of ETS and GMAC materials and publish an apology.
China has been under pressure by other countries to crack down on piracy after it joined the WTO in 2001.