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Friday, 4 July 2008

Design protection in Italy: some good news for originators

The IPKat's friend Giovanni Casucci has sent him some hot news from Italy, which he is happy to share with you. It goes like this:

"On 30 June 2008, Mr Marangoni, Judge of the Specialised Section in Intellectual and Industrial Property of the Court of Milan, confirmed the previous seizure and injunction orders issued on 29 December 2006 with regard to Semeraro.

This order is of the utmost importance in light of earlier judicial decisions which, on the contrary, denied the precautionary measures that had been originally granted (see the case of the Panton chair from Vitra, depicted below) following the enactment of a new provision.

On 7 April 2007, Law 46/2007 implemented within the Italian system a position according to which the protection of copyright “does not apply to products accomplished according to designs and models which, before the date of entry into force of the legislative decree dated 2 February 2001 No. 95, were or had become of public property.”

This formulation has caused some case law to base its rulings on the (overturned) non-existence of copyrights for design works created before 2001. The first company which suffered from such position was Vitra, which in December 2007 saw the revocation of the originally granted seizure, with the consequence that, during the “Salone del Mobile” fair, held in 2008, newspapers and leaflets reproducing slavish imitations of well known design works indicated the lawfulness of such copies, derived from the new Italian regulation.

Flos, despite such events, has resisted and fought against such regulation, which has been defined as “aberrant” by its attorney Giovanni F. Casucci, avoiding the huge economic loss caused by imitators to some other competitors. Flos has succeeded in preserving the originally granted position, convincing the judge of the fact that the new regulation totally contrasts with the higher Community and international regulations. Today, thanks to Flos, both Italian and foreign design companies can hope for successful protection of their icons of design in Italy".

Having recently attended ACID's tenth anniversary celebration in London (see post here), the IPKat is acutely aware of the hardships faced by furniture designers and manufacturers in seeking to preserve the integrity of their creative output in the face of competition from infringers and imitators who have not incurred their initial costs and who take little commercial risk since they only copy the designs that are popular enough to sell well. He is pleased to see that the position has improved so greatly in Italy. Merpel's quite concerned, though -- every time she curls up on one of those Panton chairs she just keeps sliding off it ...

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