A Chinese manufacturer of motor scooters is not in breach of an Italian competitor’s intellectual property rights. That was the verdict of the General Court of the European Union (EGC) in a ruling from September 24, 2019 (Az. T-219/18).
We at the commercial law firm MTR Rechtsanwälte note that in order for a registered design to be capable of being affording protection under the Community Design Regulation, it needs to be new and possess individual character.
In the dispute between the motor scooter manufacturers, the General Court found the Chinese model to have sufficient individual character, there being no risk of confusion with a well-known model from an Italian manufacturer. Consequently, the Chinese producer’s Community design remains registered.
The Chinese manufacturer had its scooter registered in 2010 as a Community design at the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO). Its Italian rival brought an action against this and applied to have the design declared invalid, reasoning that the Chinese scooter lacked novelty and individual character because its profile and structural characteristics bore a strong resemblance to one of the Italian manufacturer’s models. It went on to note that the Italian motor scooter was protected as a creative work in Italy and France.
The EUIPO rejected the application for annulment, and this decision has since been upheld by the EGC. The Court held that the two motor scooters created a different overall impression. While the Chinese model was said to have a predominantly angular profile, the Italian scooter, on the other hand, was said to be characterized by curved lines. Consequently, the EGC found that the Chinese scooter possessed individual character. It ruled that the differences distinguishing the two scooters were numerous and of such significance that they would not escape the attention of informed consumers, and that there was thus no risk of confusion.
The EGC also confirmed the EUIPO’s view that the Chinese motor scooter did not infringe the Italian manufacturer’s copyrights in Italy and France. The Court noted that the copyright protection was for the “curved, feminine vintage character,” and that the more angular Chinese roller did not draw on this character.
Trademarks and the protection of intellectual property are of great value to businesses. Lawyers with experience in the field IP law can offer advice.
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