Just before the United Kingdom generally shuts down and stops functioning for a few days, Mr Justice Arnold slipped out a decision that is positively anti-Arnoldian. It comes in at slightly less than 100 paragraphs, but retains the characteristic table of contents that is suggestive of a much longer judgment. The reason - well, it is a design case. Relating to ice cream vans, no less. The case is Whitby Specialist Vehicles Ltd v Yorkshire Specialist Vehicles Ltd & Ors  EWHC 4242 (Pat) (17 December 2014).
The design of the Mondial was protected by UK Registered Design No. 4,000,395. Despite the concession "Whitby entirely accepts that the design of the Mondial was not revolutionary, but an evolution of earlier Whitby ice cream van designs, and in particular a model called the Millennium", the judge found that the design was novel and had individual character. He considered a number of standard features of ice cream vans in the design corpus, and a number of differences between the Millennium and the registered design, before coming to this conclusion.
UK unregistered design right was found to subsist in a number of aspects of the design: 21 were initially pleaded, 2 were abandoned, all of which were held to be original. One of the remaining aspects was considered commonplace, and a further few designs were excluded by the must-fit/must match exclusions. The designs that valid design right thus subsisted in were found to be infringed - copying was not in the end denied, and the defendants' designs were "very similar".
There was also found to be trade mark infringement deriving from the fact that one of the copied panels had the words "WHITBY MORRISON" moulded onto it.
The largest single issue to be determined was not a validity or infringement matter, but the liability of the fourth defendant, Ghulam Rubani, father of Omar and Amer. All three maintained that he had had no involvement. The judge found, after consideration of the surrounding circumstances, that he had both primary and joint liability for all of the design infringements specifically mentioned in the judgment, but left for the enquiry into damages how many further infringements he may have participated in.
This Kat regrets that so few UK registered design cases result in a finding of infringement. This is a rather sad and messy tale (tail?), but he is at least heartened that it shows that registered designs do provide real protection.