Dunnes' appeal over copying Karen Millen designs rejected

By Tim Healy

A LENGTHY legal battle between British fashion company Karen Millen and Dunnes Stores over the copying of clothing designs has concluded.

It followed the dismissal yesterday by the Supreme Court of Dunnes' appeal against a High Court decision in the case and a subsequent last month by European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruling rejecting key arguments made by the chain store.

Dunnes now faces a substantial legal costs bill arising from the litigation.

The dismissal order, and a costs order against Dunnes, was made by the Supreme Court yesterday in the light of the ECJ decision.

Mr Justice John Murray, presiding, said the court would give reasons for the dismissal in a written judgment later.

A number of questions had been referred to the ECJ by the Supreme Court concerning interpretation of EU regulations on the protection of fashion designs.

In the High Court in 2008, Ms Justice Mary Finlay Geoghegan ruled that Dunnes, in offering for sale a black knit top and blue and brown shirts, infringed Karen Millen's rights to unregistered community design under a European Council regulation in each of the three designs.

Dunnes appealed to the Supreme Court where it argued Karen Millen had failed to prove the individual character of the designs at issue and thus was not the holder of an unregistered community design.

In its judgment, the ECJ said the individual character of a design must be assessed by reference to one or more specific, individualised, defined and identified designs from among all the designs made available to the public previously.


That assessment could not be conducted by reference to a combination of features taken in isolation and drawn from a number of earlier designs, it ruled.

The ECJ also said Karen Millen had put the shirt and top on sale in Ireland in 2005 and the items were purchased by representatives of Dunnes Stores.

"Dunnes subsequently had copies of the garments manufactured outside Ireland and put them on sale in its Irish stores in late 2006," it said.