The 'case' with Trunki's design rights
- AuthorChristopher Buck
Trunkis, children’s ride along and carry on suitcases (pictured right), first became well-known after appearing on BBC2’s programme ‘Dragon’s Den’. Despite receiving no funding from the Dragons, Trunkis have become highly popular and, in turn, a successful business venture. It is no wonder that protection of the designs was sought after. Trunki’s designs are registered as a Community Design, being an individual design right receiving protection in the European Union.
Magmatic, the manufacturer of Trunki, brought a claim against PMS International, the seller of rival Kiddee Cases, in February 2013. This was with the intention of obtaining damages and an injunction against the infringement of Trunki’s design rights.
At first, Magmatic was successful in its claim as the High Court ruled in its favour. The matter was then heard by the Court of Appeal who disagreed with the ruling of the High Court, and found in favour of PMS International. The appeal was in relation to a design, not an idea or invention.
The Supreme Court ruling
The creator and CEO of Trunki, Rob Law, tweeted that he was ‘devastated’ when the Supreme Court upheld the decision of the Court of Appeal. They ruled that there had been no infringement by the respondent of Trunki’s registered design rights.
The written judgment of the case is unique as it is the first one to include illustrations. The illustrations were of the suitcase designs.
It was not denied that there were similar features between the designs, namely the four wheels (one in each bottom corner), the animal and insect themes, the saddle to allow children to ride on them and the clasp at the front. However, PMS International argued that the designs were significantly different because Trunkis are designs of animals or insects with horns, whereas Kiddee Cases are designs of insects with antennae or animals with ears.
The court then looked at the registered designs of Trunki, which were registered in October 2003. As indicated by PMS International, Trunki had registered designs of animals or insects with horns and as such these designs were found by the Supreme Court to be significantly different from the designs of Kiddee Cases.
Rob Law has said how those at Trunki and Magmatic were “bewildered by this judgment, not just for ourselves but for the huge wave of uncertainty it brings to designers in Britain”. They have made clear their concerns surrounding the decision and the impact that it may have for other designers and their rights.
However, PMS International feels the decision made by the Supreme Court to uphold the ruling of the Court of appeal was the right one. They stated they felt the outcome was a “victory for fair competition” and will allow consumers to continue purchasing products at competitive prices; with the Trunki costing around £39.99 and the Kiddee Case costing around £26.99.
Protecting design rights
The above case has reflected the difficulties which may be faced when attempting to protect design rights. It is always advisable to seek legal advice or support in relation to an application to protect rights, or when looking to argue that your rights have been breached. It is of great importance to understand what you want to protect and whether you have achieved this.
If you would like a conversation about a design that you want to protect, please do contact me, or one of my team on 01908 660 966