Furniture and originality in Switzerland

The Swiss Federal Supreme Court has ruled in a copyright lawsuit regarding an individual character of furniture.

The case at hand concerns a design of chairs and bar stools created by the Swiss designer Max Bill in the 50s and 60s of 20 century. These designs have been used by Horgenglarus since them producing the relevant furniture.


After the death of Max Bill his copyrights started to be managed by the Bill Foundation which gave a license to Horgenglarus that was terminated in 2001. The manufacturer continued to use the designs which provoked a lawsuit. Horgenglarus contended that designs at point did not enjoy any copyright protection because they did not have the necessary individual character to be considered “works” in the sense of copyright law.

The commercial court upheld only the copyright protection over the frame chair considering the bar stool as lacking individual character taking into account the previous similar stools.


The Supreme court reversed this decision stating that “the degree of individuality (originality) required for a work to have individual character depended on the degree of freedom the category of works permitted. If the degree of freedom was limited, even minor deviations from known designs could convey individual character.”

According to the court the fact that separate elements from the stool are similar to the previous one it doesn’t mean that the relevant design is lacks of originality because the assessment requires the entire design to be taken into consideration.

Based on the foregoing, the court considers that the individual elements had never been combined in the way Max Bill combined them so the work was unique at the time of creation.

More information can be found here.

Source: IP Kat.


Copyright over design for clothes in US


The US Supreme Court ruled in the case STAR ATHLETICA, L.L.C. v. VARSITY BRANDS, INC., which in brief concerns clarification whether clothes design is copyright protectable.

As it is well-known there is no copyright over the so-called “useful article” objects having an intrinsic utilitarian function that is not merely to portray the appearance of the article or to convey information. Examples are clothing, furniture, machinery, dinnerware, and lighting fixtures.

According to the court, even in this case copyright protection can be invoked but under some requirements:

  • the element can be perceived as a work of art separate from the useful article;
  • and the element would qualify as a protectable pictorial, graphic or sculptural work if imagined separately from the article of clothing (or other useful article).

In the particular case, the court considers that copyright over designs fixed on the clothes exist because the same designs could be transferred to another medium such as canvas in which respect it could be perceived as a separate piece of art.

More information here.

EUIPO tips regarding EU design applications

111EUIPO published an interesting article which gives useful tips regarding how to fill an application for an European design. The article sheds a light on what designs can be included in one application, how to determine the relevant Locarno classes, claims for priority and so on.

More information here.

WIPO annual report on IP activities for 2015

WIPO published its annual statistic regarding intellectual property activity for 2015.

According to the data the applications for patents rose with 7,8% in 2015 compare with 2014. The top 3 countries with the highest patent application rate are China, Indonesia and Russia. There was 2,9 million new applications worldwide in 2015 and 1,2 million registrations.

As for trademark applications there is an increase of 15,3% for 2015. The most active countries are Japan, Italy and China.

In the case of industrial design applications there is a rise of 2,3% globally, where the most active countries are Iran, China and US.

More information can be found here.

Nero coffee or not – a General court’s decision

The General Court ruled in cases T-37/10 and T-29/16 where an Italian company Caffe Nero Group ltd tried to register the following EU trademark in Class 30 ‘tea, coffee, cocoa; biscuits; cookies; bread, pastry and confectionery, chocolate bars, chocolate covered coffee beans, etc’ and related retails services in Class 35:


The EUIPO refused to register this mark on absolute grounds, the consumer in Italy can perceive this expression as descriptive, namely that the coffee is without any additions such as sugar, milk or so on.

The decision was appealed by the company with the argument that nobody in Italy uses this term for such kind of coffee in practice.

According to the court, however, even in case that this is not typical expression for ordering such drink, it clearly evokes a direct meaning in consumer mind about the goods characteristics.

Moreover, for some of the goods such as ‘tea, cocoa, coffee substitutes; herb tea; tea beverages; cocoa and cocoa-based preparations; cocoa beverages; preparations and mixes for making the aforesaid goods; powdered chocolate’, the consumers can be mislead to think that they content coffee.

Source: Marques Class 46.


Brief IP news

briefs_1131. Two loses for Gucci in trademark cases against Guess in European court. For more information here.

2. Trademark protection in US. For more information here.

3. The biggest design lawsuit ever – a mess or? For more information here.

Information from Intellectual Property Center at the UNWE. More information can be found here