Copyright protection may not be granted to designs on the sole ground that, over and above their practical purpose, they produce a specific aesthetic effect

07 october 2019

According to the Court of Justice of the European Union -  Judgment in Case C-683/17 of  12 September 2019 - designs must constitute the expression of original works if they are to qualify for such protection.

The Court recalled, first, its settled case-law that any original subject matter constituting the expression of its author’s own intellectual creation can be classified as a‘work’, within the meaning of the directive on copyright.

Further, the Court stated that a body of acts of secondary EU law establish a specific protection for designs, while providing that that specific protection may apply in combination with the general protection ensured by the directive on copyright. Consequently, a design may, in a particular case, also be classified as a ‘work’.

In addion, the Court stated that the protection of designs, on the one hand, and copyright protection, on the other, pursue different objectives and are subject to distinct rules.

the grant of protection, under copyright, to subject matter that is already protected as a design must not undermine the respective objectives and effectiveness of those two sets of rules, which is why the cumulative grant of such protection can be envisaged only in certain situations.

Last, the Court explained that the aesthetic effect that may be produced by a design does not constitute a factor that is relevant to the determination, in a particular case, of whether that design can be classified as a ‘work’, since such an aesthetic effect is the product of an intrinsically subjective sensation of beauty experienced by each individual who may look at the design in question. That classification does, however, require it to be demonstrated that, first,there exists a subject matter which is identifiable with sufficient precision and objectivity, and, second, that subject matter constitutes an intellectual creation reflecting the freedom of choice and personality of its author.

Consequently, the circumstance that designs produce, over and above their practical purpose, a specific aesthetic effect, does not, in itself, entail that such designs can beclassified as ‘works’.

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