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Court of Appeal upholds unregistered design rights in suitcase design

Written by Michael Coyle on 14 February 2007

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Court of Appeal upholds unregistered design rights in suitcase design

Landor & Hawa International Ltd v Azure Designs Ltd [2006] EWCA Civ 1285

The Court of Appeal has agreed with the Patent County Court’s decision that the design owner enjoyed both UK and Community unregistered design rights (“UDR”) in its “expander” suitcase design.

It decided that the suitcase design was not “a method or principle of construction”, and therefore not excluded under section 213(3)(a) of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 (“CDPA”).

The appeal raised three main issues, namely: (i) whether there was UK UDR in the Expander Design, or whether the design  constituted a “method or principle of construction”, falling within the exclusion under section 213(3)(a) CDPA; (ii) whether the there existed Community UDR protection in the Expander Design, or whether the design constituted “features of appearance of a product which are solely dictated by its technical function”, falling within the exclusion in Article 8(1) of the Community Designs Regulation (6/2002/EC) (“CDR”); and (iii) whether the judge was right to grant a quia timet injunction preventing the marketing and selling of the products even though the threat to do so had been withdrawn by the time proceedings were issued.

Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal. Section 213(3)(a) should be narrowly construed, stating that it did not apply simply because a design served a functional purpose, unless that purpose could not be achieved by another means. The judge had found that the strips of piping in the design introduced a non-functional and even “capricious” element to the final appearance of the ensemble. A design with both aesthetic and functional features would still be protected under the CDPA.

As far as Community UDR was concerned, the Court held that the judge was right to draw support from Recital 10 of the CDR, which states that “this does not entail that a design must have an aesthetic quality” in order to be protected. Therefore, despite its functional features, the design would be protected under EU law.

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