Blossoming copyright infringement of berry nice dinnerware

Blossoming copyright infringement of berry nice dinnerware
In Bodo Sperlein Ltd v Sabichi Ltd and another [2015] EWHC 1242 (IPEC)

 how did the Intellectual Property Enterprise Court (IPEC) approach a copyright infringement case involving tableware designs?

What was the background to this case?

Bodo Sperlein (BSL) is a designer specialising in ceramics. In 2001 Mr Sperlein of BSL created a design for tableware called the ‘red berry’ design (see annex 1 to the judgment for an image of the red berry design). This design was then used on a tableware collection. The collection was launched in September 2002 at the Maison et Objet trade show in Paris.

Sabichi Homewares (Sabichi) created a ‘red blossom’ design for tableware which it sold in department stores. An image of a sample of the red blossom design is shown at annex 2 to the judgment. The red blossom design was developed in two stages. Hayley Adams, a designer at Sabichi created a design called ‘twiggy’ in 2006. The twig design was created in the colours of platinum and silver. Ms Adams later left Sabichi and in 2008 the twiggy design (or a similar design) was brought out of the company’s archive and sent to China for the manufacture of tableware, not in platinum and silver but in the colour red.

Tableware sporting the red blossom design was spotted by BSL in a store in Guildford. BSL alleged copyright infringement of its red berry design by Sabichi copying, importing and selling its design.

What were the legal issues?

That copyright subsisted in the BSL design and that it was owned by BSL was not in dispute.

The issues were:

  1. Whether Hayley Adams copied the red berry design when she created the twiggy design?
  2. If so, whether she copied the red berry design in substantial part?
  3. Whether the red blossom design is a copy of the red berry design?
  4. If so, whether it is a copy in substantial part?
  5. If Sabichi were found liable for copyright infringement, whether the court

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