Monday, 2 March 2015

Jean Wars - Lessons from G-Star Raw v Rhodi

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In G-Star Raw CV v Rhodi Ltd and Others [2015] EWHC 216 (Ch) (6 Feb 2015) a group of companies in Preston and two of their directors were sued by one of Europe's leading denim fashion brands and designers of contemporary urban garments for unregistered design right infringement. Design right is an almost uniquely British intellectual property right that protects investment in product designs. It applies to the "shape or configuration (whether internal or external) of the whole or part of an article".  I have written an introduction to design right law in Unregistered Design Rights: Overview 18 Sept 2008 IP Yorkshire.

In this case the defendants were accused of importing into the UK and selling jeans that had been manufactured abroad that reproduced the claimant's "Arc Pant" designs knowing or having reason to believe that they were infringing articles. The case came on before Mr Richard Spearman QC sitting as a deputy judge of the High Court who decided against the first, second, fourth and fifth corporate defendants but not the company directors. I have written a short note on this case at Unregistered Design Rights: G-Star Raw v Rhodi 28 Feb 2015 NIPC Law.

Design right is one of a range of intellectual property rights of which the garment trade should be aware. Other rights include 
  • copyright which protects the artwork for fabric designs from copying for the life of the designer plus 70 years, 
  • registered designs and registered Community designs which confer monopolies of the appearance of new designs having individual character for up to 25 years, 
  • unregistered Community designs which confer 3 years protection from copying on designs that could be registered as registered or registered Community designs, 
  • registered trade marks and the law of passing off which protect brand names and logos.
It is particularly important for such businesses to know about registered and registered Community designs because it has been an offence since the 1 Oct 2014 to make a product exactly to a registered or registered Community design or with features that differ only in immaterial details from that design knowing or having reason to believe that the design is registered under s.35ZA of the Registered Designs Act 1949. This new offence is one of many changes to design law that were introduced by the Intellectual Property Act 1949 (see Reflections on the Intellectual Property Act 2014 7 June 2014 4-5 IP.

Just to the North of Manchester's Piccadilly station lies one of the largest concentrations of garment manufacturers, importers and distributors in the UK. The Liverpool law firm QualitySolicitors Jackson Canter has recently opened an office at 111 Piccadilly with a view to serving that industry. On 20 April 2015 between 16:00 and 18:00 QualitySolicitors Jackson Canter will hold a workshop at that office entitled Protecting your Brands and Designs: IP Advice for the Fashion Trade at which Alex Rozycki and I have been invited to speak.  

Alex is an expert on IP crime and he has also spoken on the subject to the Merseyside meeting of the Chartered Institute of Patent Attorneys. Our chambers are recognized for their expertise in IP law relating to fashion and luxury goods which is why Alex and I were invited to speak to IALCI (The international association of lawyers for the creative industries) at the St Pancras Pullman in London on 10 Feb 2015 and at seminars in London and Paris on the "Paradox of Fashion" organized by the Franco-British Lawyers Association. You can download my slides to the IALCI seminar from IALCI Seminar: Enforcing IPR in England and Wales 13 Feb 2015 4-5 IP. The other speaker at the event will be Mr Michael Sandys, Director and Head of Commercial at QualitySolicitors Jackson Canter.

This workshop will cover just about everything on IP that businesses in the garment trade need to know including in particular the changes to the law brought about by the IP Act which I discussed in detail in How the Intellectual Property Act 2014 changes British Registered Design Law  19 June 2014 and How the Intellectual Property Act 2014 will change British Unregistered Design Right Law 11 June 2014. This is a workshop that you really can't afford to miss. Admission is by invitation only and demand is likely to be brisk. If you want an invitation or indeed if you want to discuss any aspect of fashion law including Mr Spearman's judgment in G-Star Raw call me on 020 7404 5252 during regular office hours or fill in my contact form.