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Copyright Judge’s Eye for Fashion Deployed

Copyright judges are, it seems, expected to have an eye for fashion as well as the finer points of intellectual property law. A ‘tribal’ print used in a high street retailer’s dress range came under scrutiny as the High Court rejected claims that it had been copied from another fabric manufacturer’s design.

The manufacturer had supplied a sample of the distinctive fabric to a company which designed and made garments for the retailer. In the event it was not used; however, the manufacturer took legal action against the company after a similar fabric appeared in the retailer’s range. It was submitted that the geometric pattern and colour scheme of the fabrics strongly indicated that one had been copied from the other.

After carrying out a detailed comparison between the fabrics, the Court found that the similarities were not compelling enough to establish either conscious or unconscious copying. Although the designer of the allegedly infringing material may have seen the original fabric, she had no recollection of having done so. She was adamant that her design was original and there was no good or sufficient reason to reject her evidence.