Broad protection of design rights recognized by Supreme Court


The Finnish Supreme Court has issued its first decision on design rights since the new Registered Designs Act came into force on August 1 2002. The court held that the ICEY non-slip device for shoes imported by Nahkakunta infringed Devisys Oy's registered design.

The court stated that registered design protection cannot be bypassed by making insignificant changes which do not represent an independent creation. Under the new act, design rights extend to similar designs which do not produce a different overall impression on informed users. The freedom of the designer in developing the design must also be taken into account.

Even though there were visually detectable differences in detail between Devisys's protected design and the ICEY non-slip device, the court found that their effect on the overall impression of the device was insignificant. Therefore, the court considered that the ICEY device was not an independent creation. In addition, the court found that the freedom of the designer was limited by the intended use of the product.

The decision highlights the fact that a registered design provides significant protection. In addition, the appearance of a product may be protected under trademark or copyright law. An applicant may apply for design protection, as well as patent and utility model protection, as these rights do not exclude each other.

Soile Järvenpää, Tampereen Patenttitoimisto Oy (Berggren Group), Tampere

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