Friday, 5 October 2012

Originality not Required

The latest part (I ZR 21/11) in the recent series of interesting decisions on design protection under German unfair competition (see e.g. (here) law relates to a toy set with a box having a glass bottom, a bag of sand and some tools to create patterns in the sand spread on the bottom.

The set had been protected by a utility model, which, however had expired when a competitor started to sell highly similar toy sets. The court in the 2nd instance had rejected the claims by arguing that the realization of a general idea using only basic shapes could not lend a "competitive character" to the design in the sense that the design could be construed as an indication of the commercial origin of the product by the public.

The BGH disagreed and argued that restriction to the use of basic shapes might lead to a puristic design which could be considered characterizing for the commercial origin of the goods such that copying the design could be an avoidable deception on the commercial origin of the goods.

Originality of individual features of the design is not required. Decisive is rather the overall impression.

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