Articles Legal

Intellectual Property – Copyright Infringement – Design Rights

The case of Landor and Hawa International Ltd v Azure Designs Ltd (CA) [2006], involved a dispute over the design of a type of suitcase. The claimant company had been designing, importing and selling travel bags and suitcases since 1985. In June 2002, the managing director produced a design for an expanding section ("the Expander Design") which was to be incorporated into hard shell-style suitcases.

Suitcases incorporating the Expander Design were then produced and sold in the UK and abroad.

During the late summer of 2003, the claimant company became aware of suitcases using the Expander Design and built in China being marketed and sold in the UK by a company called Label. The claimant company alleged that this infringed its design rights in the Expander Design. It discovered that the defender company had imported and sold such suitcases.

The claimant issued proceedings against the defendant for infringement of design rights in the Expander Design. The remedies bought were damages and an injunction on the grounds that by importing and selling the Label suitcases, the defensive company was infringing the design rights in the Expander Design which were registered in the UK (UKUDR) and the EU (EUUDR).

The claimant won the case. The court took the view that s.213 (3) (a) of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 should have been interpreted narrowly. This section says:

'(3) Design right does not subsist in (a) a method or principle of construction …'

It was held that this section should not apply purely because a design served a functional purpose and would only apply if it could be shown that the purpose could not be achieved by any other means. The defender then appeared to the Court of Appeal on the grounds that:

▪ The claimant's protection by UKUDR in respect of the Expander Design was uncertain, (although it was concerned that if they were protected, then the Label suitcases would infringe the design rights);
▪ The design rights were 'in features of appearance of a product which were strictly dictated by its technical function'; and
▪ The judge was incorrect to grant a quia time injunction restraining the defendant from marketing and selling the Label suitcases, as the defendant had already said they would not do so by the time the claimant had issued proceeding.

The appeal was dismissed because the judge had reached the right conclusions for the right reasons on all the issues raised.

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© RT COOPERS, 2006. This Briefing Note does not provide a comprehensive or complete statement of the law relating to the issues discussed nor does it determine legal advice. It is intended only to highlight general issues. Specialist legal advice should always be taken in relation to particular circumstances.

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