The scope of photographic copyright—the Red Bus case
Produced in partnership with Boyes Turner LLP

The following IP practice note produced in partnership with Boyes Turner LLP provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • The scope of photographic copyright—the Red Bus case
  • Factual background
  • Subsistence of copyright in photographs
  • Finding on originality/intellectual creation
  • Infringement
  • Why is this case controversial?
  • Does this case simply turn on its own facts?
  • Impact of the case?

The scope of photographic copyright—the Red Bus case

The Red Bus case or Temple Island Collections v New English Teas was decided in the, as it was then, Patents County Court (PCC) in January 2012 and concerns the scope of photographic copyright. The decision has been the subject of much discussion and a certain amount of criticism given that it appears to call into question one of the central tenets of copyright law that there is no copyright in an idea.

Temple Island deals with the scope of copyright protection.

Although the PCC (now the Intellectual Property Enterprise Court) was an ‘inferior’ court whose judgments did not impose a binding precedent on higher courts, copyright cases that go all the way to trial are rare and this case has therefore been relatively influential.

Factual background

Temple Island Collections (TIC) designs, manufactures and supplies souvenir gift items with a British theme.

In 2010, TIC issued copyright infringement proceedings against New English Teas (NET) in the PCC. NET supplies gift packed teas with a British theme and was using a photograph created by the managing director of TIC on its tea products without TIC’s permission.

The photograph in question featured a red Routemaster bus crossing Westminster Bridge against a black and white background incorporating the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben. The image had been digitally manipulated via Adobe Photoshop. TIC used

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