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News article | 11 March 2021 | Executive Agency for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises

IP news

Can you protect a bullfighting show via IP? Chanel infringing IP rights related to the use of furniture. Supreme using the photo of a famous monk without authorisation on a new piece of garment. 

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Executive Agency for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises

Good morning everyone. Hope you had an amazing start to the week, as usual. Grab your coffee, tea, or orange juice, and get ready for this week’s news.

Can you protect the show of a bullfighter?

This is the question that the Spanish Supreme Court had to answer after Miguel Angel Perera, a famous Spanish bullfighter, tried to protect his show from 2014, show that was classified as “perfect and outstanding” (go figure…). According to the Supreme Court, it is impossible to define precisely the “artistic creation”, as the bullfight is composed of unique elements that could never happen again and are, eventually, up to chance and to random and unpredictable factors. Hence, anyone is allowed to reproduce the images of the bullfighter doing his thing, without the need to require the previous authorisation of the bullfighter himself (in any case, the ownership of the footage belongs to the television in charge of broadcasting the event or the person who recorder the video).

Regardless of how you feel about bullfighting (is it really an art? Should we evolve from it?), according to previous EU case law, in the case of football games, these cannot be considered as protected by copyright. Indeed, for a work of art (can we consider a football game a work of art?) to exist, it must be the creation of its author, and a football game does not fit the criteria since it is limited by a set of rules that leave no leeway to creativity. The same doctrine applies to bullfighting.

Chanel in a new lawsuit: infringement of paper designs for store display

The intricately-engineered blocks of accordion-assembled paper that appear in the windows of Chanel boutiques across the globe, and within the stores, themselves, are at the heart of an infringement lawsuit involving Chanel. According to design studio Molo Design, after being in contact with Chanel for a number of years, and after Chanel ordered samples of its products, Chanel copied its patent-protected furniture to decorate its stores.  

Molo Design makes unique flexible space partitions: “softwall and softblock”, and it is one of the leading retailers and design companies, for a lot of famous fashion companies.

Exchanges with Chanel started back in 2014 when a representative expressed interest in Molo’s collection, including its black textile softwall + softblock products. Subsequently, samples of the products were ordered.  

Fast forward, and Molo claims that two companies (Substrate and InLuce) contacted it regarding the use of its softwall + softblock products for “an upcoming retail rollout that would involve window displays in at least 26 Chanel stores across the U.S.” In response to both inquiries and upon confirmation that Chanel was interested in using Molo’s product, the company says that it provided detailed information regarding its softwall + softblock products, as well as “technical specification, certifications, and use guides for the products". However, both deals fell through. Although Molo informed that it owned patent rights over the products, it appears that this did not deter Chanel from installing displays in its stores with materials that copied the patent-protected softwall + softblock products. Since then, Molo has been made aware that Chanel has been using similar furniture in other shops around the world, without authorisation.

According to Molo, Chanel was fully aware that the furniture was protected through its corresponding IP and this unauthorised use constitutes an infringement of its patents. Molo also alleges that “Substrate and InLuce” were agents for Chanel and acted within the scope of their agency, or otherwise acted at Chanel’s direction and on Chanel’s behalf. 

Thailand’s National Office of Buddhism vs Supreme.

Thailand’s National Office of Buddhism says that it is weighing its options in terms of legal action against Supreme for putting an image of Luang Phor Koon on apparel without its authorisation. Indeed, one of the new garments included in the Spring/Summer 2021 collection bears an image of the late monk surrounded with yant script, a sacred form of tattoos reserved for Buddhist monks and Brahmin holy men.

According to the National Office of Buddhism the image that appears on the buzzy Supreme wares, depicting the celebrated monk sitting and smoking, is one of the “most popular” photos of Luang Phor Koon, who died in 2015, and was taken in 2002 with the monk’s permission. Initially printed on products to raise funds for Wat Ban Rai, a Nakhon Ratchasima province temple, the National Office of Buddhism says that VF Corp-owned Supreme did not seek out, or receive, permission to use the image, thereby, giving rise to potential issues of copyright infringement.  

Regarding yant sanscript, there is the question of whether the right has expired, since, in Thailand, copyright in such works lasts 25 years from the date that the work was created/published. 

This is all for this week's news. See you next week!