January 2019. Reeuwijk-based home decoration supplier Edelman has failed to ban a Christmas decoration offered by its competitor Casa International from retail outlets. Despite the fact that the decoration concerned appears to have been more or less copied from its own range, Edelman was told by the court in Amsterdam that there was no infringement.

Edelman’s decorations, which the company claims are protected as copyright and design

Copyright and design rights

Edelman claims its decorations aren’t just copyright-protected but that it also owns the European registered design rights to both the star and the tree, outlined with a black metal rod to which LED lights are fixed.

Casa’s decorations, which Edelman claims are a like-for-like copy commissioned from a Chinese company

Amsterdam court not competent

The court made short work of Edelman’s European design rights claim. According to established jurisprudence, you can in principle only submit disputes concerning EU designs to the District Court in The Hague, since the Amsterdam court isn’t deemed competent to hear such cases.

Not original

The court also overturned Edelman’s supposed copyright, ruling that the overall design wasn’t sufficiently original to be copyright-protected. The shape of a star or a tree and the use of a black metallic surround studded with bulbs 2 centimetres apart was regarded as both a basic and common design and therefore not eligible for copyright protection.

Could design rights have been upheld?

In retrospect, it’s a great pity Edelman didn’t take its case to the District Court in The Hague. Although this wouldn’t have helped its copyright claim, it could well have made a difference to the design rights issue, where Edelman might have won out. After all, a design doesn’t have to be original, it only has to be new and have a individual character. It’s certainly quite possible that Edelman does own valid design rights and that Casa’s copies infringed them. But if you will insist on going to the wrong court.

Bas Kist