Design Rights and How to Protect Your Brand – High Court Ruling

Many companies rely on the distinctive get-up of their vehicles as an essential part of their public-facing image. A High Court case involving a fleet of vans that sported a model of an oversized screwdriver on their roofs showed how, with the right legal advice, such designs can be effectively protected.

The get-up of the vans was the subject of an EU-registered design and was used to promote a domestic goods repair business. The corporate owner of the design and its exclusive UK licensee launched infringement proceedings after noticing that a group of companies that provided handyman services was also employing vans with model screwdrivers on their roofs.

In ruling on the matter, the Court noted differences between the model screwdrivers used by the defendants and those that appeared on the claimants’ vans. However, the vehicles used by both were relatively non-descript and consumers were more likely to focus on the presence of the models, rather than the finer points of their appearance.

In granting summary judgment on the claim, the Court found that the defendants had failed to establish that their vans created a different overall impression from those of the claimants. In order to restrain further acts of infringement, an injunction was granted against the defendants and their sole director and shareholder, who was found jointly liable.