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Trunki loses its case….

Magmatic, the manufacturer of the popular children’s ride-on suitcase ‘the Trunki’ has lost its long running legal dispute with rival manufacturer PMS International (“PMS”). This decision is likely to have far reaching implications for the enforceability of community registered designs against copycat products. 

The Supreme Court concluded PMS’ Kiddee Case range didn't infringe the registered design rights of Magmatic’s Trunki range, the small brightly coloured suitcases designed to look like animals.

Magmatic originally won in the High Court, only for that decision to be overturned by the Court of Appeal. The Supreme Court has now decided that the Kiddee Case doesn’t infringe the intellectual property contained in the design of the Trunki.

Lord Neuberger concluded that whilst it was clear that the Kiddee Case was inspired by the Trunki, what matters for design disputes is not the novelty of the idea but the details of the design. Key differences included the different use of colour and texture and the fact that the Kiddee Case has plastic covered wheels.

This decision confirms that design rights create legal protection for specific designs, not the idea that created that design. The Supreme Court found that Magmatic’s inclusion of very specific design features, including dark uncovered plastic wheels, specific texture/shading and a dark stripe meant that these features became a core part of the design. By designing the Kidde Case slightly differently, the court concluded that PMS had sufficiently distinguished its case from the Trunki so that the Kiddee Case did not infringe on the Trunki community registered design.

Magmatic contended that these specific features should be ignored but the court ultimately decided that these specific features, in addition to the “animal with horns” aspect of the Trunki, meant that the Kiddee Case, with its covered wheels, different features and “insect with antennae” face is sufficiently different to the Trunki.

The important point for businesses to note is how careful they need to be when first registering their designs. In hindsight, Magmatic may have been successful if the six CAD drawings used in its design application had been more generic and considered in more detail. Ultimately, the effect of this decision is that if a business does want to protect a design, any application for a community registered design must be carefully thought through and only made with the assistance of specialist advice.     

 

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