Archive: February 2020

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Beware the pitfalls of informal licensing agreements
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Cofemel’s first UK outing – The wooly world of copyright and designs

Beware the pitfalls of informal licensing agreements

The Federal Court of Australia recently handed down its decision in the copyright case of Hardingham v RP Data. This decision serves as a warning about the risks of informal licensing arrangements. The case centres around copyright infringement regarding the use of photographs and floorplans without authority.

The applicants in the case were Real Estate Marketing (REMA) and its sole director, Mr Hardingham. REMA had been operating its business since 2009 and entered into informal agreements with real estate agencies to create and provide photos and floorplans of properties for marketing campaigns. It was understood by REMA that, as part of marketing campaigns, the agents would upload the commissioned photos to platforms such as realestate.com.au. However, the scope of the permitted uses by the agents was not clearly agreed or recorded in writing.

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Cofemel’s first UK outing – The wooly world of copyright and designs

In Response Clothing Ltd v The Edinburgh Woollen Mill Ltd [2020] EWHC 148 (IPEC), the Intellectual Property Enterprise Court (“IPEC”) has issued the first UK decision made since the Court of Justice of the European Union’s controversial decision in Cofemel (C-683/17).

Why does this matter?
The Cofemel decision indicated that there is a harmonised concept of what constitutes a ‘work’ under copyright law throughout the EU, which is not restricted by any defined categories and should not take into account any aesthetic considerations.

Accordingly, there has been much discussion about the UK’s closed list of copyright protectable subject matter under the Copyright, Designs and Patent Act 1988 (“1988 Act”) and the concepts of ‘artistic works’, ‘sculptures’ and ‘works of artistic craftsmanship’ under section 4 of the 1988 Act and whether these are incompatible with EU law. Previous prominent Court decisions such as the Lucasfilm decision in the Stormtrooper Helmet case have also been thrown into question.

This decision is the first time that a UK Court has had to deal with this apparent incompatibility.

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