The UK company behind the Trunki ride-on suitcase for children has lost its battle in London's Supreme Court, which dismissed its appeal over the design of Hong Kong rival Kiddee.
The case is expected to have implications for small creative businesses in the UK that rely on design rights.
In a judgment handed down today (9 March 2016), the Court dismissed a registered design infringement case brought by Trunki's parent company Magmatic against PMS International.
The court ruled that the European design registration of Trunki, Magmatic's award-winning ride-on suitcase, was not infringed by PMS's similar product.
In response, Trunki said the judgment brought a “wave of uncertainty to Britain's designers”.
Trunki founder Rob Law said: ‘We are devastated and bewildered by this judgment, not just for ourselves but for the huge wave of uncertainty it brings to designers across Britain.
“We created an original product in Trunki and protected it by computer generated registered design – a process used to protect a third of designs across Europe. In my honest opinion, the Trunki was willfully ripped off.
“The law is meant to be about certainty. But this decision will create chaos and confusion among Britain's design community, who have relied on a pan-European right which has been in place since 2002. There is meant to be parity across Europe. But this decision puts British designers at a distinct disadvantage from our European counterparts, whose courts have a far more robust approach to infringement.”
Trunki won the Best Consumer Product Design at the 2013 Plastics Industry Awards, while Law received an MBE for services to business in 2011. In 2012, he fulfilled one of his long-term goals by bringing the manufacturing of Trunki back to the UK, where 75% of production now takes place.
Law added: “We've now reached the end of the legal process. I'd like to thank everyone who has supported us along the way. Despite all the time, expense and anguish of the past four years, I would do it again as I believe protecting British designers is an essential right if we're to continue to be pioneers on a world stage. I'm just sorry this view isn't shared by our country's Supreme Court.”
Dids MacDonald, chief executive of Anti Copying in Design, who had supported Trunki's application said: “This is a travesty and plunges design law into an abyss and will foster widespread confusion for UK designers.
“The ability to rely on clearly defined and enforceable intellectual property rights, and in this case a registered Community design right, has been denied.
“The Law Lords' decision is a sad day for justice and for UK designers.”