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IPEC sides with US rival in Schnuggle design dispute

In this article for Intellectual Property Magazine, Mathys & Squire associate Max Thoma comments on Shnuggle’s suit against US rival Munchkin.

The Intellectual Property Enterprise Court (IPEC) has sided against UK baby product maker Shnuggle, in a high-profile design case.

IPEC dismissed Shnuggle’s suit against US rival Munchkin on 22 November, after it found it had made an error in preparing its initial application.

Shnuggle reportedly filed simple computer-generated images rather than properly prepared line drawings, which in turn made it difficult to enforce its design rights against Munchkin.

The error saw its later filed design invalidated in the case, due to the earlier error.

Mathys & Squire’s Max Thoma suggested Shnuggle “could have been in a stronger position had they filed a more considered initial registered design application based on properly prepared drawings, rather than simply filing CAD images of an early version”.

He said the ruling “seems to indicate that the differences between [Munchkin’s] Sit & Soak product and the Shnuggle designs would have in any case been too great for a registered design infringement claim to succeed.”

Thoma continued, “In legal terms, this case provides some clarification on the amendment made to the law on unregistered design right by the Intellectual Property Act 2014, in that the judge ruled that a “part of an article” which can benefit from design right does not necessarily have to be a separate component.

“Despite Shnuggle showing that part of their design had been copied, they failed at the final hurdle to show unregistered design infringement as the judge ruled that not all of the part had been copied,” he concluded.

Background

Shnuggle filed suit with the High Court against rival Munchkin in September, asserting it copied two registered Community designs.

The company sought an injunction, claiming the US competitor intends to import and sell in the UK and EU its Sit & Soak (S&S) baby bath.

“The shape of the S&S is the same or substantially the same as the shape of each of the Shnuggle designs,” the litigation stated.


This article was first published on Intellectual Property Magazine in November 2019.

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