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EU Intellectual Property Law and Policy

Catherine Seville

Intellectual property remains not just economically significant, but also of daily importance to most businesses and individuals. The digital age brings many opportunities, but also presents continuing challenges to IP law, and the EU’s programme of harmonisation unfolds in this context. Taking account of numerous changes, the second edition of this accessible book offers a fully updated account of the law as it affects all the major rights, free movement and competition matters, and enforcement. It sets the substantive law in its policy context, and discusses potential reforms to this major area of EU law.
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Chapter 4: Designs

Catherine Seville

Extract

, it presents a challenge to intellectual property law. How should such things be protected, if at all? If a design can be thought of as a work of art, then copyright protection is perhaps appropriate. But design protection is also demanded for industrial products, especially the aspects of shape and pattern which make them distinctive. If an item is mass produced, should the designer or manufacturer be able to prevent others from producing a similar design? Should it make a difference whether the design has been copied or arrived at independently? And what sort of protection is appropriate?

One problem is that it may be difficult to separate the functional and the aesthetic aspects of a design. If something is entirely functional, like a petrol engine, but not sufficiently inventive to justify a patent, there is little reason for granting monopoly rights over it. But as soon as decorative additions turn an engine into a car, customers will start to consider appearance and design, in addition to the performance of the engine. The design features may or may not be intended for aesthetic purposes. The shape of car bodies will be determined partly with aerodynamics in mind, and partly with an eye to what the consumer will want. Consumers have grown more and more aware of design over recent decades, and style may well be the dominant factor in the purchase of basically functional articles such as furniture and lighting. As a result, manufacturers spend huge amounts of...

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