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November 1, 2012 Vol. 67 No. 19 Back to Bulletin Main Page

And Who Gets the Sofa…? INTA’s Design Protection Conference in Copenhagen

INTA had been considering Copenhagen as a conference venue for some time but was still searching for a suitable topic when Leopold von Gerlach (Hogan Lovells, Germany) contacted the Association expressing interest in planning an event dealing with design rights. Around 220 attendees from 35 countries probably agreed that that city and subject matter constituted a perfect fit when they gathered at the Radisson Blu Falconer on September 10 and 11 to attend INTA’s Design Protection Conference, co-chaired by Mr. von Gerlach and Johan Løje (Sandel, Løje & Partnere, Denmark).

After a welcome speech by Margrethe Vestager, Denmark’s Minister for Economic Affairs and the Interior, the initial session dealt with the interplay of designs, copyrights and trademarks. The audience was introduced to such interesting concepts as, inter alia, the curse as the precursor of modern copyright law, or copyright’s “Zombie return,” in the CJEU’s decision in Flos v. Semeraro. Lucy Nichols was the first speaker to lay claim to the white sofa featured on the stage as an example of Danish design, claiming that it had been promised to her if her presentation should “knock the audience’s socks off.”

The day’s second session, which followed an invigorating networking lunch, examined the balance between functional and aesthetic features in product design and focused on such issues as complex products, the protection of spare parts and functionality from a U.S. and EU perspective.

For session three, Karen Fong (Rouse, United Kingdom), who made her own claim to the sofa by arguing that it should go to the first speaker actually to use it, sat down with Steinar Valade-Amland, Managing Director of Danish Designers (an organization representing over 1,000 professionals from the design community), for an engaging discussion on the evolution of design, the change in the designers’ self-perception and the use of such innovations as 3D printing and nanotechnology. The day concluded with a session focusing on the value of design innovation from a product development and economic perspective.

Attendees then engaged in some “reception hopping,” as two member firms followed the official INTA reception with celebrations of their own. One reception was held on a rooftop terrace overlooking Copenhagen, while another was a dessert reception, featuring such heavenly offerings as Danish pastries and rhubarb ice cream.

The next morning, attendees were up bright and early for the second day’s activities, hearing an update on the latest activities of INTA’s Design Rights Subcommittee. This was followed by, first, a very informative session that compared design protection under WIPO’s Hague System and OHIM’s system on Community Designs and, second, an interview of David Stone (Simmons & Simmons, United Kingdom), conducted by Leopold von Gerlach, on recent highlights of European case law.

Lunch preceded a session on the enforcement of designs, during which Perry Saidman (Saidman DesignLaw Group, USA) used the opportunity to stake his claim to the by-now famous sofa. Next in line was a discussion of complex legal issues (especially the conflict of designs, patent and trade dress in the United States). The concluding session dealt with look-alikes and trade dress protection in different European jurisdictions.

The conference received great reviews from the audience. Quite a few participants had been drawn specifically by the issue of designs, which had only once before been the focus of an INTA event, held jointly with WIPO in 2005 in Vancouver. Katja Lange (Siemens, Germany) remarked that “the conference, with regard to the compilation of its speakers as well as with regard to the quality of the contributions, had well served the growing attention recently accorded to issues of design law.” Jacek Myszko (Soltysinski Kawecki & Szlezak, Poland) especially appreciated that the topic had been “covered from a lot of angles,” while Kaia Bugge Fougner (Zacco, Norway) and Ingeborg Schwarz (Brehm & v. Moers, Germany) both lauded the useful practitioners’ view taken by many of the presentations.

Niall Rooney (Hanna, Moore & Curley, Ireland) felt that INTA had “served its members well by framing the topic in a very trademark attorney–friendly way.” Rakesh Prasad (ALG, India), who had come all the way from Delhi to learn about other countries’ laws and views on design rights, summed up the event as a “super conference.”

The one question that remained open, and will, we hope, be answered at one of the upcoming INTA meetings, was, Who actually got the sofa?

Although every effort has been made to verify the accuracy of items in the INTA Bulletin, readers are urged to check independently on matters of specific concern or interest.

© 2012 International Trademark Association