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Case law: Design copied from earlier product can still be 'original' and protected by unregistered design right

Businesses accused of infringing another business's unregistered design rights in a product should know that it is not an adequate defence simply to prove that the accuser's design was itself based on an earlier design.

Legal Alert

This update was published in Legal Alert - March 2017

Legal Alert is a monthly checklist from Atom Content Marketing highlighting new and pending laws, regulations, codes of practice and rulings that could have an impact on your business.

A company that manufactured plastic storage lockers claimed that two rivals (which were connected to each other) had infringed its unregistered design rights in its product by manufacturing similar lockers.

UK unregistered design right protects the shape or configuration (but not surface decoration) of the whole or part of a product - but only if the design is 'original'. One defence put forward by the rivals was that the company's lockers were not original because they were based on an earlier design.

The High Court said that the mere fact the company's lockers were based on a previous design did not mean they could not be original. It ruled that despite the clear influence of the earlier design, the company's lockers were still original.

Operative date

  • Now

Recommendation

  • Businesses accused of infringing another business's design rights in a product should be aware that it is not an adequate defence to prove that the accuser's design was based on an earlier design

Case ref: Action Storage v G-Force Europe [2016] EWHC 3151 (IPEC)

Disclaimer: This article from Atom Content Marketing is for general guidance only, for businesses in the United Kingdom governed by the laws of England. Atom Content Marketing, expert contributors and ICAEW (as distributor) disclaim all liability for any errors or omissions.