A recent decision by the Federal Court of Australia has highlighted the importance of protecting your intellectual property and it could be particularly important for those budding fashion and swimwear designers out there to pay attention to.
The case was brought against Fewstone Pty Ltd, trading as City Beach (“City Beach”) by Seafolly who claimed that City Beach had infringed their copyright by substantially reproducing their swimwear designs for their stores. Seafolly claimed it owned the copyright to three artistic works:
- the English Rose fabric print;
- the Covent Garden fabric print, and
- the Senorita embroidery design.
Seafolly alleged that City Beach reproduced a substantial part of each of these works, by copying the look and design of the fabric, to sell in its stores. The court found that copyright can be infringed through the reproduction of a fabric print or embroidery design where the distinctiveness of the design is substantially reproduced without the permission of the copyright owner.
Seafolly claimed that by reproducing their copyrighted designs City Beach has damaged its reputation and it sought remedies including compensatory damages, damages for this damage to its reputation, additional damages and an order for the delivery to it of the infringing goods.
The court ruled that City Beach had intentionally reproduced these designs to which Seafolly owned the copyright and ordered them to pay $250,333.06 in damages to Seafolly.
In its decision the court found that Seafolly designers had applied their skill, effort, labour and judgment to achieve the works, which meant they were original artistic works and protectable by copyright. The court found that City Beach had notice of facts that would suggest to a reasonable person in the relevant business that Seafolly’s copyright was being infringed. The court was satisfied that not only did City Beach have the power to prevent the reproductions of Seafolly’s designs being stocked in its stores, but that it also initiated, directed and commissioned the process.
Seafolly was able to establish that City Beach sent physical samples of the genuine Seafolly garments and photographs of the designs to its manufacturer and design company with instructions to copy or use them as inspiration in the design of new swimwear.
This case should serve as a warning to those budding fashion and swimwear designers out there, and anyone working in creative industries generally, of the importance of protecting the copyright of your original designs.