Monday, 29 December 2014

Ice Cream Van Case shows the Value of Design Registration

Royal Courts of Justice, London
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The decision  of Mr Justice Arnold in  Whitby Specialist Vehicles Ltd v Yorkshire Specialist Vehicles Ltd and others [2014] EWHC 4242 (Pat) (17 Dec 2014) shows the value of design registration. It costs relatively little and is very quick because there is no substantive examination unlike patents and trade mark registration. Unlike claims for unregistered design right infringement there is no need for the registered proprietor to prove copying or knowledge of the infringement on the part of the defendant. However, if copying and knowledge of the registration can be proved the infringer may now be prosecuted under s.35ZA of the Registered Designs Act 1949.

In the case that I just mentioned above a Crewe specialist vehicle converter successfully sued a company in Leeds and the individuals behind it for registered design, unregistered design right and trade mark infringement. I have set out the details in Designs in Ice Cream Vans: Whitby Specialist Vehicles Ltd v Yorkshire Specialist Vehicles Ltd and Others 27 Dec 2014 NIPC Law.

The claimant converts commercial vehicles into ice cream vans. One of its models, the Whitby Mondial, wis based on the Mercedes Sprinter. The company registered the design of the Mondial under the Registered Designs Act 1949. Because all ice cream vans share a lot of common features and designers are constrained by technical, commercial, regulatory, cost and practical restraints the registration afforded a relatively narrow scope of protection but it was enough for the purposes of this litigation.

The judge found that the defendants had purchased one of the claimant's converted vans, made moulds from its parts and used those moulds to make a competing product called the Millennium. The copying was so blatant that the defendants even reproduced the claimant's trade mark.

Design registration is relatively straightforward and many businesses do it for themselves. You can find a lot of information on the Register a Design page of the Intellectual Property Office website. It is usually a good idea to instruct a patent or trade mark attorney to assist you. If you do not already have a patent or trade mark attorney you can search the databases of the Chartered Institute of Patent Attorneys or Institute of Trade Mark Attorneys through their websites. Alternatively, you can call my clerk Steve or George on 0161 850 0080 and he can give you the names of several with whom I or my colleagues have worked successfully in the past. Probably nobody is in a better position to judge whether an attorney knows his or her stuff than counsel for the reasons I explained in IP Services from Barristers 6 April 2013 4 to 5 IP.

If you want to discuss this case or design registration in general give me a call on 0161 850 0800 during office hours or use my contact form.

I wish all my readers a happy New Year.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Let's Take this Opportunity with Both Hands

Granada TV Studios, the Site for the Factory Arts Centre
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There has been a lot of talk about "the Northern Powerhouse" lately.  In my article on the Northern Futures Summit in my IP Yorkshire blog I compiled a bibliography of articles that I and others have written about it. Now there is a commitment from HM Government to make it happen. On page 48 of his Autumn Statement, George Osborne, a local MP as well as Chancellor of the Exchequer, announced that HMG will invest over £7 billion in transport, science and technology and the arts and leisure to create a "Northern Powerhouse".

The transport investment will include upgrading the trans-Pennine rail system which may include a high speed railway ("HS3") and improvements to the Liverpool docks and across the Pennines. Bidders for the new rail franchisees will be required to increase capacity by 20% with new rolling stock and to improve station facilities.There will be similar improvements to road and rail connections in Yorkshire and the North East.

Investments in science and technology will include a centre for materials science based at Manchester University with satellites in Leeds, Liverpool and Sheffield, a Cognitive Computing Research Centre in Daresbury, a new National College for Onshore Oil and Gas in Blackpool and an Energy Security and Innovation Observing System at Thornton. The Chancellor gave details of these developments when he visited the Museum of Science and Technology on 8 Dec 2014 (see the press release "Chancellor puts science at heart of Northern Powerhouse" 8 Dec 2014).

Investments in the arts will include a Great Exhibition in the North to celebrate art, culture and design in the region, a massive new theatre and arts centre on the site of the Granada studios to be known as "The Factory Manchester" and various arts projects in all the Northern cities to commemorate the First World War. Of all the investments announced by the Government it is The Factory that has aroused most interest. On its website Manchester City Council wrote:
"The Factory Manchester will play an integral part in helping Manchester and the North of England provide a genuine cultural counterbalance to London, supporting the city and region's growth."
The Council estimates that the Factory Manchester will create 2,300 jobs and generate revenues of £134 million per year within 10 years.

This investment in communications, manufacturing, science, technology and the arts is bound to result in new businesses, designs, inventions and works of art and literature all of which will require legal protection. We shall continue to advise on the legal issues that may arise from time to time. Should anyone wish to discuss this article, the Northern Powerhouse or the Autumn Statement in general he or she should call me during office hours on 0161 850 0080 during office hours or click my contact form.

Further Reading