Karen Millen wins design ‘copy’ case against Dunnes

A BRITISH clothing company has won its High Court action alleging Dunnes Stores breached European regulations by copying a woman’s shirt and top. Dunnes will have to account to the Karen Millen (KM) chain for profits made on sales of the copied garments, which were sold through its Savida range.

In a landmark judgment, which centred around the first interpretation by a court of a 2002 EU regulation on protecting fashion designs, Ms Justice Mary Finlay Geoghegan found against Dunnes Stores in the first of three cases to be taken against it by KM’s parent company, Mosaic Fashions.

The judge will later hear similar actions being taken by Coast Ltd and Whistles Ltd, also owned by Mosaic.

The case centred on the nature of a KM “faux shrug cami top” and a KM striped woman’s shirt, sold in blue and brown versions. Mosaic alleged Dunnes was selling, in its Savida range, a black knit top, a blue shirt and a brown shirt, which were “direct and conscious” copies of KM designs which were designed “in-house” for the KM brand.

KM launched the top and shirt in December 2005 and Dunnes put similar items on sale at their stores in 2006. The Dunnes Stores top was made in China and shipped through Korea to Ireland, while the Dunnes Stores shirt was manufactured in Turkey.

It was claimed the Dunnes products infringed KM’s design rights as protected by an EU regulation of 2002 on unregistered community designs.

In her judgment, Ms Justice Finlay ruled Dunnes had failed to establish as a matter of probability that any of the KM designs in question did not fulfil the requirements of Article 6 of the regulation for individual character and, in that regard, the court was treating KM’s unregistered community designs as valid.

Given those findings, she ruled the use by Dunnes of the Savida garments as an infringement of Mosaic’s unregistered community design and the British company was entitled to prevent Dunnes making use of it.

Mosaic was entitled to orders restraining Dunnes selling or making use of the items; orders for delivery of any of the items still in its possession and an order for account of the profits earned by Dunnes, or any associated company, from the sales of the items.

Last night, Mosaic Fashions Ireland managing director Miriam Flahive welcomed the decision, saying the case was pursued “on a matter of principle”.

“Mosaic Fashions is a design-led fashion group that prides itself on its unique style and commitment to quality. We pursued this case... to protect the integrity of our designs and the creations of our talented designers. The judgment handed down today upholds the rights of design, including fashion, across the EU.”

Money received from Dunnes will be donated to the Marie Keating Foundation, in aid of breast cancer awareness, she added.

Ms Justice Mary Finlay adjourned to January 18 issues relating to how Dunnes will declare profits from copying the KM designs. She will also then issue directions for the hearing of the other cases.

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