Not just a wine box for plants

06 July 2021

What is the best way to legally protect a kind of wine box for plants? Via design law. A lesser-known intellectual property right and somewhat overshadowed by copyright these days. But that a design right can be very effective, was recently proven (again) by a judgment of the District Court of The Hague.

In summary proceedings, a Dutch judge ruled that the Blooms out of the Box, 'a (promotional) gift that consists of ‘ a wooden box in an elongated shape, with a sliding lid and three plants, that simultaneously serves as plant pot and shipping packaging' is eligible for design protection. With such a valid design right, legal action can be taken against objects that produce the same overall impression. In this case: the Ecoworldbox.

A wine box with three holes

According to the defendant in this case, plaintiffs' plant box is nothing more than a common wine box with three holes. But that, according to the judge, is precisely what makes it special enough for design protection: a standard wine box is not identical to this box. Precisely because a standard wine box does not have three round openings, openings that significantly characterize the design, the general impression that the model creates is different from the general impression that a common wine box creates.

As the defendant also could not substantiate his claim that comparable products were already sold on the market before the introduction of the Blooms out of the Box, the judge concluded that the design of the plant box was new and had an individual character.

The differences between the plant box of the plaintiff and that of the defendant were furthermore deemed irrelevant by the court and the final verdict was therefore that defendant’s Ecoworldbox infringed plaintiff’s design right on the appearance of the Blooms out of the Box.

Functional objects

It is questionable whether this case could also have been won on the basis of copyright law. Although the threshold for copyright protection in the Netherlands is lower than it used to be, it is certainly not the case that each and every design is also eligible for copyright protection. And that is exactly where the value of a design right comes in.

Briefly put, design law offers a more limited protection for the appearance of functional objects. Not copyright light, but a special protection for a specific group of products.

Would you like to know more about designs and design rights? Our advisors will be pleased to answer your questions.


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