Chinese Microsoft case; labour loses in US

Microsoft to face Chinese monopoly action

The IPKat learns from AFP that the Chinese State Intellectual Property Office has begun an antitrust investigation into Microsoft. The claim appears to be based on abuse of dominant position, and centres on the fact that the Office and Windows combination costs a lot more in China than in the US - sometimes the software costs more than the PC that is running it. The anti-monopoly law on which the suit is based doesn't actually enter into force until August.

The IPKat isn't too much of a competition law expert, but he thinks this looks less complex than the European antitrust action. The charge doesn't seem to levelled at how the software is constructed, but rather at how it is prices. He's willing to be proved wrong though.

Copyright decision comes right down to the wire

The IPKat is intrigued by a story in the Salt Lake Tribune, concerning a failed attempt by a Utah company to bring a copyright claim in respect of digital models of Toyota's cars. The company, Meshwerks, was commissioned by Toyota to create digital models of Toyota's cars for Toyota's advertising campaign and website. Meshwerks claimed that it only granted Toyota a licence for a single use of the models, but for that argument to work, Mershwerks had to show that it actually had copyright in the models to licence. The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals held that it didn't.

The models had been constructed by Meshwerks employees covering Toyota cars with a grid made of tape, and taking measurements and the intersections. Those measurements were used to generate electronic wire-frame models of the cars, with additional features being added by hand. The models were then sent to another company to add colour and texture etc, but Meshwerk's contribution added up to 80-100 man hours per vehicle.

The court held that there was no copyright because Meshwerks' contribution wasn't original. Instead, they were merely good copies of Toyota's cars.

The IPKat reckons that this is a textbook example of the proposition that, although the originality standard in copyright is low, it is real, and mere labour isn't enough to gain protection (in the US at least).
Chinese Microsoft case; labour loses in US Chinese Microsoft case; labour loses in US Reviewed by Unknown on Wednesday, June 18, 2008 Rating: 5


  1. Meshwerks embarked upon the project of making drawings etc only after Toyota needed them to draw them. The drawings did not originate from Meshwerks on their own. Meshwerks is not author of the work. In any case Meshwerks were not to use the drawings themselves. They are not known to be the manufacturers of cars. Drwaings were meant for Toyata, upon their commissioning the work for Toyota to advertise their cars. Therefore, Meshwerk cannot not be the copyright holder.

  2. Hi a.

    Things wouldn't be quite so simple, under English law at least.

    If you're an employee then your copyright is owned by your employer if he asks you to create a work.

    However, if you're a contractor (as Meshwerks appears to be) then you keep your copyright unless (i) it's necessary for the business relationship to be meaningful for the person who commissions you to have assignment, rather than a licence or (ii) you enter into a contract giving you your copyright.

    In any even though, I'm not sure that considering who owns the copyright here is the correct approach because there is simply no copyright to own.

  3. "There is no copyright"? So, I can use the image too?

  4. I think Ilanah means that there is no NEW copyright (created by Meshwerks) - Toyota would still have copyright on the earlier designs/pictures created by themselves.

  5. Paul Jones (Toronto) has emailed to say: "In the wake of the reports in primarily the Chinese press that SIPO (the State Intellectual Property Office) was conducting an investigation into Microsoft’s conduct in China with respect to pricing and possibly bundling SIPO today issued a denial:

    (In Chinese):"

    Other correspondents have corroborated this -- thanks for writing in!


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