For the half-year to 31 December 2014, the IPKat's regular team is supplemented by contributions from guest bloggers Rebecca Gulbul, Lucas Michels and Marie-Andrée Weiss.

Regular round-ups of the previous week's blogposts are kindly compiled by Alberto Bellan.

Sunday, 9 February 2014

The Cozy Coupe: full-sized replica of toy car raises questions

The following item was researched and written by Rebecca Gulbul, whom the IPKat graciously thanks for her effort.

This may well be the cutest car on the roads: a grown-up version of Little Tikes’ Cozy Coupe that can actually be driven. According to the BBC, John and Geoff Bitmead, two brothers from Oxfordshire, worked 1,000 hours and invested £4,000 to create this car. It is equipped with a gas engine, seat belts and airbags and can go as fast as 70 mph.  For the record, COZY COUPE is a registered Community trade mark which is owned by The Little Tikes Company. Despite its unassuming size, the Cozy Coupe was the UK’s best selling car in 2012, and its sales topped those of any full-size car.

Seeing this children’s car being made into an adult-size car, made us think back to the 2007 reference to the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) for a preliminary ruling in Case C-48/05 Opel/Autec , where the Court had to decide about the reverse situation: a toy model cars based on an Opel car. The question was whether Autec’s scale-down toys infringed Opel’s trade mark as they included the latter’s logo on their products. The court ruled that model cars would be infringing a trade mark if a consumer could have doubts as to the origin of the product, namely whether the model cars were being manufactured by Opel too. One of the main functions of a trade mark is to guarantee the origin of goods and services. It would have to be decided on the facts of each case whether the relevant public perceived the copied objects as originating from the same manufacturer. It was clear that commercial considerations had to be taken into account. In that case, the German courts ruled that Autec had not infringed Opel’s trade mark.

So, despite the uncanny resemblance of the Bitmead brothers’ car, they only made a one-off specimen and have not expressed any intention of manufacturing giant Cozy Coupes in great numbers nor of commercialising them. It is unlikely therefore that they would get into trouble. In fact, Little Tikes tweeted about the Bitmead’s achievement and seemed more happy about it than annoyed.

Little Tikes made their own adult-size version of the car in August 2013 (here). The latter was an exact replica of the Cozy Coupe and even relied on pedal-power to drive the car, just like the children’s version.

Further information can be found on YouTube, and in Metro and the Mirror.
The IPKat is conscious that trade marks are only part of the story, since any unauthorised manufacture of a replica product potentially raises issues relating to copyright, design rights, unfair competition, passing off and slavish imitation -- depending on the jurisdiction and the nature and scale of manufacture. Merpel's thinking of the environment: grown-up pedal-powered Cozy Coupes would be great for urban use. They are light, easy to park, produce no exhaust and offer little scope for unwanted passengers.

3 comments:

Uncle Wiggily said...

Dear Jeremy:

Your blog is clearly the Rolls Royce of IP blogs.

Best regards,

Uncle Wiggily

Ron said...

Reminds me of an article I read some years ago of someone in the UK making actual versions of the ficticious cars used by Penelope Pitstop and Dick Dastardly in the cartoon seies "Wacky Racers". They did take the precaution of approaching Hanna-Barbera (I think) for permission before they started. Permission was eventually granted, albeit with some reluctance, but this changed to enthusiasm once they saw the quality of the end results. As I recall they were not UK road-legal, but were only brought out at some motor sport events. They were based on Austin Allegros, whose front wheel drive made wheel base extension relatively simple.

Ron said...

The "Wacky Racers" story appeared in the Daily Telegraph, and can be read here:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/motoring/4745838/Cartoon-capers.html

Subscribe to the IPKat's posts by email here

Just pop your email address into the box and click 'Subscribe':