Courts Clarify Copyright And Trademark Rights In Furniture Cases

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Furniture designers interested in protecting their intellectual property rights should be aware of two recent federal appeals court decisions that clarify the scope of protection that may be available. In one, the court granted copyright protection to the ornamental designs adorning two popular furniture lines. In the other, the court refused protection under trademark law for a functional feature of a chair design, while leaving open the possibility that such protection is available in appropriate circumstances.

In late August 2010, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit affirmed a judgment of more than $11 million in favor of Universal Furniture International and against Collezione Europa USA, in a copyright infringement case involving Universal’s Grand Inheritance Collection (GIC) and English Manor Collection (EMC). The decision provides useful guidance for designers hoping to obtain protection under U.S. copyright laws.

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