Buxiban wars: 16 English cram schools strike back at TutorABC

16 English cram schools defend use of noun 'tutor' amid TutorABC lawsuits

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Cram schools.

Cram schools. (By Central News Agency)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) -- Sixteen English cram schools, known in Taiwan as "buxiban" (補習班, supplementary learning classes), held a joint press conference yesterday (March 13) to counter rival online English school TutorABC's claim to a trademark on word "tutor," reported CNA.

Yesterday morning, 16 English cram schools, including Kojen English Centers (科見美語), AMC Language School (空中美語), and Jeda Language Institute (職達外語), held a conference at the Taipei Bar Association and asserted that TutorABC's lawsuits over the word "tutor" are baseless because it is a common noun. They claim that TutorABC's legal actions over the past three years over the word are an attempt to monopolize the market.

AMC Language School founder and President Peter Hsu (胥宏達), joined 10 other schools who have been sued by TutorABC in condemning the lawsuits. Hsu said TutorABC had originally sued his school for NT$10 million in damages for using the trademark "Tutor 4U." After the ruling was appealed, TutorABC raised the amount it was seeking in compensation to NT$70 million, which Hsu described as "really unacceptable." The schools are calling on the Fair Trade Commission to step in.

Jeda Language Institute founder Wang Kai-min (王凱民) said that "tutor" is a term used globally, only Taiwan's judiciary is allowing TutorABC to claim exclusive rights to the word. Wang said that after TutorABC obtained the right to use the word as a trademark, it dispatched lawyers everywhere to file suits with companies using "tutor," which Wang likened to "breaking down the door and invading the house."

Wang claimed that other companies had "tutor" in their trademark, but TutorABC had asked the Taiwan Intellectual Property Office to withdraw their trademarks, leaving no space for competitors. The schools said that this was not a legal issue, but a matter of the judges' opinions.

They said that "the law is correct, but the judgments were erroneous." Only when the judges respect the universal principles of the world and not let the word "tutor" be the exclusive domain of one business, can the litigation war be brought to an end as soon as possible.

In response, TutorABC issued a statement in which it said that "some of the lawsuits against competitors have already been adjudicated, while others are still ongoing." However, the company said that it was "improper for businesses to hold a press conference in the Taipei Bar Association when cases have yet to be ruled on."

TutorABC accused the schools of "using falsehoods to discredit and universally criticize judicial decisions that were unfavorable to competing schools with the intention of presenting a false impression that it was endorsed by the Taipei Bar Association." TutorABC said that it is "improper to try to influence the judiciary by disrespecting the courts."