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Supreme Court ruling in landmark “Trunki” design rights copycat case paves way for more imitations

Published on 09 March 2016

Comments on implications of Supreme Court’s registered design rights decision

Jeremy Drew, Head of Retail at RPC, comments on the Supreme Court ruling handed down today on the landmark Magmatic Ltd vs PMS International Ltd registered design case involving the makers of “Trunki” children’s luggage and a discount rival Kiddee Case:


“This will send shockwaves through design-driven businesses. It’s highly likely that other businesses may now begin to see cheaper versions of their well-known original registered designs coming onto the market.”


“With design increasingly at the heart of many of the UK’s most successful manufacturing businesses this is going to be a very poorly received judgment.”


"The concern now is that computer aided design drawings no longer offer the same protection as line drawings. With a significant number of all community registered designs submitted last year not presented as line drawings, this leaves the majority of designs less protected."


“Businesses looking to imitate the success of recognizable market-leading brands by imitating or drawing heavily on their original iconic registered designs are going to find this much easier from now on.”


“This is particularly unwelcome news for SMEs whose businesses rely on safeguarding the value of their IP and who often have limited budgets for enforcing perceived infringements through the courts.”


“The fact that Kiddee Case said that it intended to create a cheaper version of the Trunki case – and yet still managed to achieve a Supreme Court ruling allowing it to continue mimicking their registered designs - will make registered designs much harder to enforce in future.”


“Registered design rights cases very rarely reach the Supreme Court so this outcome has been hotly anticipated by original designers and businesses seeking to manufacture products “inspired by” iconic designs alike.”


“With the number of designs being registered increasing, original designers will need to look carefully at the robustness of their legal protections to safeguard themselves against copycats.”


“Ensuring that protections against infringement are watertight is as vital, yet more challenging, than ever.  Businesses will need to consider the overall impression created by their registered designs.”


"Although the Court noted that it had sympathy with Rob Law and Magmatic because Trunki was a "clever idea", it was swift to remind us that "Design Right is here to protect designs, not ideas"."


"The Court recognized that the Kiddee Case is "very similar indeed" to the Trunki suitcase, but yet proceeded to dismiss Magmatic's appeal on the basis that the overall impression created was sufficiently different. "


RPC points to figures which show that the number of designs registered by businesses grew by nearly 7% in 2014 (latest data available), rising to over 4,900 registered designs from 4,600 in 2013 according to IPO data.