mercredi, juin 23, 2010

Denmark: Switched off: court rules no violation of copyright in design case

Switched off: court rules no violation of copyright in design case

Contributed by Norsker & Co


Facts

Lauritz Knudsen (LK) is a Danish company which has developed, produced and sold electronic materials in Denmark for over 100 years. Since 1981 LK has marketed the LK FUGA series of switches which has won design prizes.

In 2004 L-Team began marketing a series of switches named L-control which LK felt violated its copyright and its rights under the Marketing Act.

Decision

The Maritime and Commercial Court found that LK's switches were protected as copyright and against imitations under the Marketing Act.
(1) However, the court remarked that a series of electrical switches must be considered as fundamentally functional, which in itself sets limits to the opportunities for design development which in turn is limited by the dimensions of plugs, norms and legislation.

Concerning the question of violation, the court stated that:

"LK FUGA's design must be characterized as classical, functionalistic, simple, discreet and quiet and universal. This simple, universal classicism which characterizes LK FUGA has its base in the use of very few stylistically quite, simple and freely accessible design elements, including the dimensionally and expressively dominating quadratic, concave arched tangent plane. Considering the stylistic simplicity of the design … the court finds that LK FUGA's protection as copyright must be considered as very narrow and limited to very close imitations. As L-Team's L-control series due to the under the circumstances not insignificant variations in design as to the arching of the tangent which oppose LK FUGA's in convex and curved frames, give a somewhat differentiated product appearance compared to LK FUGA, the copyright to LK FUGA following an overall evaluation is not found to be violated."

The court also found that there was no violation of LK's rights under the Marketing Act and ordered LK to pay Dkr350,000 as costs. An interim injunction in the matter was cancelled. The case has been appealed to the Supreme Court.

Comment

This decision is interesting as the court quoted grounds from recent Supreme Court decisions concerning copyright in industrial design. In particular it mentioned that "protection as copyright must be considered as very narrow and limited to very close imitations". In Denmark, the protection of industrial design as copyright or under the Marketing Act has become too broad in comparison to the protection offered in the rest of Europe and this may be the reason that the Supreme Court has tried to limit the protection to very close imitations. A few cases - including this one - are pending before the Supreme Court.

For further information on this topic please contact
Mads Marstrand-Jorgensen
at Norsker & Co by telephone (+45 33 43 31 00), fax (+45 33 13 38 38) or email (mmj@norsker.dk).

Endnote

(1) Lauritz Knudsen A/S v L-Team ApS (V-41-05), February 26 2010.