On 9 March 2016, the Supreme Court dismissed an appeal by Magmatic Ltd, makers of the famous animal-shaped "Trunki" ride-on suitcases for children, against an earlier decision that PMS International Group has not infringed Magmatic's Community Registered Design by selling their rival "Kiddee Case" products. In the image below, the Trunki registered design is on the left, and PMS's "Kiddee Case", which was ruled not to have infringed the Trunki design, is on the right.
The court acknowledged that the conception of the Trunki was both original and clever, and that the Kiddee Case was most likely inspired by the Trunki. However, the court also noted that a design registration does not protect an idea or an invention, but simply a design. In this case, the overall impression of Magmatic's Registered Design was that of a "horned animal", whereas the accused Kiddee Cases were decorated either as tigers or ladybirds, neither of which was found to convey the same overall impression as the design registration.
One practical implication of this case is that, when applying for a registered design, particular care needs to be taken when deciding whether or not to include shading or decoration in the design drawings. This decision suggests that, in certain situations, doing so may result in significantly narrower protection than if plain line drawings are used. Another lesson from this case is to always consider applying for patent protection, in addition to a design protection, if a product embodies a clever, original idea, because design protection alone will not protect the underlying principle.