EDITOR’S COMMENT: Law and orders?

Recent years have seen the discount market become big business here in the UK.

A constant thorn in the UK toy retailer’s preverbial, the discount retailer has often come under fire from other high street traders for operating somewhere within the realms of ‘ridiculous’ with its low pricing on many leading lines.

And the fact that Poundland CEO Jim McCarthy has made no secret of his business’ £1bn a year turnover appears to do nothing to ease relations, only twist the knife that one bit further.

However, the gradual infiltration of the high street is not the discount market’s only play for notoriety within the toy industry, and the result of this week’s landmark court ruling appears to firmly cement the discounter’s place within the inventor’s community, too.

The big story of the last five days is that Magmatic, the firm behind the popular children’s travel case brand Trunki, has lost its appeal against PMS International’s Kiddee case range over design rights infringement.

The design in question is a range of ride on travel cases created in the style and shape of animals.

It was in 2013 that Magmatic first sought damages against the Hong Kong-based PMS International, alleging that the design of the original Trunki had been copied.

Since then, the case has been in and out of court more times than Lindsay Lohan, in a timeline that saw Trunki celebrate victory in 2013, only to have it overturned in 2014, until finally the challenge was dismissed in Supreme Court in 2015, putting the final nail in that coffin.

While the Courts did express ‘sympathy for Magmatic’ and offered that the idea of Trunki ‘was a clever one’ (probably not much of a recompense for Trunki founder, Rob Law) it concluded that Design Right is ‘intended to protect designs, not ideas.’

Understandably, Law – who battled the Dragons of Dragons’ Den to secure funding for his start-up company – has been very vocal about the level of uncertainty the ruling now leaves the British design community in.

All in the wake of further judgement that “PMS conceived the idea of manufacturing a Kiddee Case as a result of seeing a Trunki, and discovering that a discount model was not available.”

PMS International has also been confident in its rebuttle that “the court’s decision upholds the rights of consumers to be able to choose competitively priced products.”

One thing that is certain about the entire case is that it has highlighted a whole new battleground for discounters and market-leading products to meet on, as summarized by Georgie Collins, intellectual property specialist at Irwin Mitchell.

She said: “This case shines the spotlight on the on-going battle between market leading products borne out of creative design, and those who produce cheaper, competing products which are similar but not identical.

“The ruling will have far-reaching consequences for the design industry and will be seen as disastrous for those who have sought to protect their designs with Community Design Registrations, as the scope of protection is now called into question.”

About Robert Hutchins

Robert Hutchins is the editor of Licensing.biz and ToyNews. Hutchins has worked his way up from Staff Writer to the position of Editor across the two titles, having spent almost eight years with both ToyNews and Licensing.biz, and what now seems like a lifetime surrounded by toys. You can contact him by emailing robert.hutchins@biz-media.co.uk or calling him on 0203 143 8780 You can even follow him on Twitter @RobGHutchins if ranting is your thing...

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