Unique copyright verdict
May 16, 2012
Eksjö district court has announced two verdicts that will have important ramifications for the entire sector. ”The verdicts show that it is worthwhile pursuing these matters,“ says Attorney at Law Eva Jensen, specialized in copyright.
The verdict in the civil case of infringement was delivered at the end of April: Buhrén Möbler was prohibited under the penalty of 500,000 SEK to manufacture, allow to be manufactured, market, offer for sale or in any other way distribute chairs similar to Lamino and its precursor Kurva. At the beginning of May Buhrén Möbler AB paid court costs of about 430,000 SEK for the infringement case – all together about 930, 000 SEK (more than €100,000). Swedish Form’s Opinion Board has acted as expert in this case.
Lamino from 1956 is one of Sweden’s most well-known pieces of furniture. In 1999 the readers of Sköna Hem chose Lamino as the furniture of the century, in competition with Bruno Mathsson’s Pernilla and Carl Malmsten’s Lilla Åland. Kurva from 1953 is one of several early variations of Lamino. One can with good reason claim that Lamino was Yngve Ekström’s life’s work.
“Plagiarism is a form of fraud that hurts both those who have produced the product and the consumer. Major investments are required in time and cost for both the designer and the producer to produce a really good design product. For the consumer, the copy looks like a well thought-out product, but it is often of significantly lower quality when it comes to sustainability and comfort,” says Swedese’s CEO Peter Jiseborn.
Peter Jiseborn and some colleagues discovered a copy of Lamino/Kurva on Burhén’s stand at the Stockholm Furniture Fair in 2011. On 10 February 2011 Swedese made an application for a writ because of Burhén’s infringement of copyright. The very next day the county court came to a decision, ex parte (without hearing the opponent), for a provisional decision for prohibition under penalty of 500,000 kronor for Burhén Möbler to manufacture, allow to be manufactured, market, offer for sale or in any other way distribute Stilo.
Later in the spring Burhén Möbler contested the charges and requested that Svensk Form’s Opinion Board act as experts in the case, which Swedese did not object to. On 26 September 2011 Svensk Form’s Opinion Board gave their verdict in the matter – that Lamino and Kurva are both thresholds of originality, each one is protected by copyright law and that Stilo is infringing this protection.
“Both verdicts show that the system works and that it moreover can work quickly,” says Eva Jensen. “It is also important that Swedese received compensation for their court costs, as a lawsuit of this type, that demands special knowledge, is extremely costly for a small producer or an individual designer. This verdict will mean that many more people will dare to bring plagiarists to court.”
Stilo was marketed by Dan Burhén Möbler, which is owned by Dan Burhén, and was manufactured in Poland by Burhén Meble, owned by Dan Burhén’s father Folke Burhén and another person. Burhéns therefore maintained that Polish laws on copyright should apply.“The verdict shows that companies cannot organise their own business as the adversary did with the aim of circumventing a penalty prohibition. This is also of great importance,” explains Eva Jensen.
The matter is not just extremely topical in Sweden but also, for example, in Britain. The magazine ELLE Decoration started a campaign two weeks ago targeted at buying copies – and to strengthen the rights of the design by changing the law. In many EU countries, a furniture item is protected 70 years after the death of its inventor, while in Britain protection is only for 25 years after the furniture has been introduced. A British change in law would be significant to many other EU countries, as Britain’s weak protection of rights makes it possible to privately import copies. However, it is forbidden to sell them, a fact most consumers are unaware of.