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CJEU (Brompton Bike): Copyright Also For Functional Shapes

#copyrights #brompton #cjeu

The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) has further extended the applicability of copyright to products whose shape serves a technical solution. This is another extension of the use of copyright that follows the path of the Cofemel case that we have reviewed in the past.

The background history to this case arises in Belgium, where the iconic Brompton bicycle - created in 1975 and known for their tiny size and foldability - where being counterfeited by a Korean brand. Brompton, who had held a patent on the product that had now expired, sought to protect its bicycle claiming copyright infringement.

The Brompton bicycle and its Korean alleged imitation

The Liege court analysing the case refered to the CJEU the question whether a shape with a technical function can be protected by copyright. One could argue that, in the presence of technical features, the designer of the product does not have complete freedom of creation, but only pursues a certain function.

The CJEU held that copyright protection is indeed available to products whose shape is, at least in part, necessary to obtain a technical result, as long as the product is an original work resulting from intellectual creation, in that, through that shape, its author expresses his creative ability in an original manner by making free and creative choices in such a way that that shape reflects his personality".

This case is of interest because it continues expanding the field of copyright to items not originally expected, like Cofemel did with clothing, and further clarifies the complex issue of intellectual property cumulation. It is also good news for many manufacturers with legacy products, as copyright lasts much longer than the other IP rights they wold normally retort to, that is, patents and designs.

You may read the full decision, here.


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