Karen Millen celebrates design win at CJEU

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Designers should find it easier to enforce their rights after Europe’s highest court ruled in favour of Karen Millen in a dispute over unregistered Community designs (UCDs).

The women’s fashion designer had sued Irish retailer Dunnes Stores in 2007, just months after it began selling two items that Karen Millen claimed were copies of two of its garments.

In the suit, filed at the High Court, Karen Millen claimed that a stripy blue and brown shirt, and a black knit top, infringed its UCDs protecting the clothing.

The court backed the claims before Dunnes appealed, arguing that while it did copy the designs, they could not be protected under UCD law. Dunnes said that the garments lacked individual character and that Karen Millen should prove that they do.

After the case reached the Irish Supreme Court, it sent questions to the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) for clarity on the case.

The first asked whether it is legitimate, when assessing the individual character of a design, to consider the overall impression produced by a combination of features taken from several earlier designs. The second queried whether the owner of a UCD must prove that its design is new and has individual character.

In response, the CJEU ruled today, June 19, that a design’s individual character must be assessed by referring to one or more earlier designs taken individually and viewed as a whole—rather than referring to a combination of features from earlier designs.

On the second point, it answered that there is a presumption that a UCD is valid when enforcing it, which means a design holder does not need to prove individual character. Instead, a design holder should show what constitutes the individual character of the design.

Both findings support Karen Millen’s case and are in line with the Advocate General’s earlier opinion.

The decision was welcomed by David Rose, head of IP at law firm King & Wood Mallesons SJ Berwin.

“This is welcome news for the fashion industry, which routinely relies on the free, immediate protection offered by UCDs to guard against the threat of copycats.

“Designs can often enjoy a relatively short lifespan so this form of IP protection is extremely valuable, and the fact that its importance has been upheld by the court today means that designers and other holders of UCDs will ultimately find it easier to enforce their rights,” he said.

 

Source : www.worldipreview.com