IPThere are some businesses that have been outwardly successful following their appearance on the well-known programme Dragons Den, and there are those that got away.

Designer Rob Law invented his childrens hand luggage product Trunki and appeared on the programme in 2006, showing off his innovative design. At the time he was asking for an initial investment of £100,000 in return for a 10{ba3215b0bf35eaeb06be458b3396ffbfc50bb9db10c9ff1594dfc3875e90ea48} share in the company but he was turned down by the Dragons.

However, his desire to bring the product to market has turned out to be a huge success. Over 1.8 million Trunkis have been sold across 97 countries. The company now has sales in excess of £7m a year and by 2011 20{ba3215b0bf35eaeb06be458b3396ffbfc50bb9db10c9ff1594dfc3875e90ea48} of children aged 3-6 owned one. The brand has become synonymous with childrens luggage. However the company has suffered a set back in its attempt to protect its intellectual property. As a result it is now wide open to competition from other manufacturers.

The Story

Rob Law had been fighting a legal battle with Hong Kong based company PMS International Limited for design right infringement, following attempts by PMS to bring out a similar design known as the Kiddee case. His company was successful in the High Court which determined that the Kiddee case infringed the European protected design of the Trunki.

However, the Court of Appeal has subsequently overturned the decision by determining that the overall impression created by the two designs was very different when assessing the entire products. The Kiddee case is “softer and more rounded and evocative of an insect with antennae or an animal with floppy ears” and is very different to the Trunki’s “sleek and stylised appearance”. It now remains to be seen whether Rob Law and his company Magmatic Limited will appeal against this latest decision, but given the phenomenal success of the product and the need to prevent cheap imitations from appearing on the market, there are certainly commercial reasons for doing so.

Without being too legalistic, the Court of Appeal’s decision has provided practical guidance on the scope of the protection of a European design. Registered designs are one tool within the armoury of protection available to business owners, and should you require further details in respect of brand protection, please contact me.