A design includes the shape, configuration and the aesthetics of a product, it tends to protect how the product appeals to the human eye; a design registration does not protect the functionality of the design or the creativity of the artist that may be involved on the surface of the final product.
Magmatic, the Company owning the design registrations for 'Trunki ride on suitcases' in Europe filed a design infringement suit against the Hong Kong based, PMS International Group. It was alleged by Magmatic that PMS was infringing its animal designs for luggage bags.
Magmatic's registered design.
Image from here
The U.K. High Court upheld Magmatic's claim and ruled that PMS' luggage bags created the same impression as that of Trunki ride on suitcases. This decision was appealed before the Court of Appeal where the previous judgment was overturned since, there were differences in the shape of the two bags, such as, there was no horned animal like impression created by PMS' product. Furthermore, unlike Trunki's bags, PMS' bags did not have a contrasting wheel color with that of the bag's body color. Therefore, it was held that there was no design infringement in the present case. This decision was appealed by Trunki before the Supreme Court where, the appeal was dismissed.
The Supreme Court in its decision acknowledged that the idea of Trunki case was indeed a unique one, but ideas were not protectable under the Designs Act. Reproduced below are the two designs that were involved in the suit:
Image from here
The suitcase on the left belongs to PMS and the one on the right to Magmatic.
It is evident that to the naked eye the two luggage cases look similar, but if one solely takes into consideration the design perspective, it wouldn't be incorrect to say that there is a difference in the shape, color contrast of wheels and the horns on the cases. Magmatic could have been successful had it made a claim for infringement of trade dress because there is a case of deceptive similarity between the two goods and there exists a high likelihood of confusion in the minds of an average consumer. A trade dress protection has a wider ambit; it includes the color combination, the overall look and feel of the product and most importantly can play a key role in determining that there exists a conceptual similarity between two goods based on the trade dress. While this case was a loss for Magmatic it is lesson for proprietors with unique designs to also argue for trade dress infringement doing so, could turn the tables in their favor.
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