High Court Rules on Trunki v Kiddee Case Design Rights

Magmatic Ltd v PMS International Ltd

The High Court has ruled that Community registered design and various unregistered designs of the child's ride on suitcase Trunki are breached by the Kiddee case product.

Magmatic sells a popular children’s suitcase under the trademark ‘Trunki’.Magmatic alleged that PMS’s similar range of children’s luggage known as ‘Kiddee Case’ had infringed its:

  • Community Registered Design Right (CRD)
  • Design rights (unregistered)
  • Copyright in the Trunki artwork for the packaging, and
  • Copyright in the Trunki safety notice

The Trunki product began in 1998 when Magmatic’s founder, Robert Law, won the BASF/Institute of Materials’ design award for his ride on suitcase called ‘Rodeo’. One of the main issues which the court considered in this case was whether the Rodeo design was a prior disclosure and formed part of the relevant design corpus when considering novelty and individual character of the CRD.  The court ruled that because the Rodeo was relatively obscure, it did not form part of the design corpus of which the informed user would be aware.

PMS identified ten design features which were individual over the design corpus.  Only three of those features were present in the Kiddee case.  PMS identified a further six features of the Kiddee case which were absent from the CRD.  The court concluded that despite these differences the overall impression of the Kiddee case is one of similarity and it shared the slimmer, sophisticated, modern appearance of the CRD.  The surface design and colour was not taken as a factor here because the CRD was for the shape of the case and therefore comparison was only restricted to the shapes of the two cases.

Decision

The court held that PMS had infringed the CRD and the design rights in four, but not two other designs of the Trunki.  It further held that PMS had infringed the copyright in the Trunki Safety notice but not the artwork.

The case does not change any aspect of design law but shows that it is often not enough to highlight all the differences between two products to avoid a case of infringement.  The essential question is whether the similarities and differences considered together affect the overall impression of the informed user. If the similarities are more visually striking than the differences, then the informed user is likely to consider the products as being similar.

It is often not enough to highlight all the differences between two products to avoid a case of infringement under Community registered design. The essential question is whether the similarities and differences considered together affect the overall impression of the informed user.

Although correct at the time of publication, the contents of this article are intended for general information purposes only and shall not be deemed to be, or constitute legal advice. We cannot accept responsibility for any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in respect of this article. Please contact us for the latest legal position.

Kent Corporate Finance Alliance

John Bowden