Sunday 2 March 2014

UK artist squares up to M&S over alleged copying

When UK designer, Louise Verity, came across high street giant Marks & Spencer's latest wall art offerings, she was understandably concerned.

One of Verity's works
M&S piece
Verity has produced and sold her works - which consist of various large messages displayed across printed pages (as in the example above) - through her business Bookishly since 2009.

For their SS14 season, M&S began selling framed wall prints which closely imitated her own.

The World Intellectual Property Review reports:
After seeing the M&S products in November last year, Verity asked for legal advice from a lawyer, who wrote to the retailer suggesting that it was in breach of copyright. 
In response, M&S’s legal representatives said they did not believe the retailer was infringing copyright.

Verity told WIPR: “M&S keeps saying that I don’t own and cannot claim rights on the idea and that the style is an established design practice, but I never claimed the concept was my idea.  
“The problem I have is that it’s a very distinct style and I use the same font in everything I do. The M&S product uses the same font and the layout looks like one of mine.”
Any IP lawyers reading this will be very familiar with the idea of copying the idea versus the expression. I would be interested to hear thoughts on whether this would amount to copyright infringement by M&S. At this stage, however, it does not appear that Verity has gone as far as filing a claim against M&S. Indeed, it seems that M&S has removed their piece from their website and it is no longer available. So perhaps the saga is over for now.

Source: World Intellectual Property Review, 24 February 2014


Andy J said...

If it wasn't for the Red Bus decision (discussed here and here), I would say that this was very much a separate expression of the same idea. None of the actual elements, apart from the black frame, are the same. Different background text, laid out differently, different main text and type face, and the relative sizes of the two texts are different. The positioning of the large text is similar to that shown in Verity's work, but is that a substantial part?
Given that much art is derived from or inspired by previous works, I think this would be a difficult one to win unless you had Michael Edenborough QC as counsel.

Geri Dimitrova said...

It will be a very hard case indeed, not to say impossible. I currently have a very similar one with a big company copying a local artist. The problem is that they have copied the idea exactly, but the form of expression is a bit different, and although there are more elements in common that the case from the post above, it is still very hard to prove copyright infringement.

Geri Dimitrova said...

In any case, please post again on this case if there are some updates! It's a very interesting issue and apparently a rather common one.