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Gas-fuelled tabletop fireplace survives thanks to its wood-like veneer

Now that the days are gradually getting shorter and the temperature is dropping, people will be able to light their fireplaces more often. For those who do not have a fireplace, the gas-fuelled tabletop fireplace will be a wonderful addition to the home. And there is something for everyone here, because they are available in many different models and colours. Still, some of these mini-fireplaces resemble one another. That is what the claimant in this case thought of a fireplace sold by another fireplace trader. What do you think? The fireplace on the left is the claimant’s, the one on the right is the defendant’s. According to The Hague District Court, the defendant did not infringe the claimant’s design right, which is registered in a shade of grey. Both models might be square and have similar notches, and their control panels might look similar, but the wood veneer on the defendant’s model still evokes a different general impression that the sleek lines and minimalist design of the client’s product. So, no copyright infringement. The difference in look was again decisive for the court’s holding: the claimant’s model’s dark-hued matte look makes an entirely different impression than the defendant’s wood-like veneer. Neither was there any question of slavish imitation. That can only exist if the allegedly infringing party could have altered the design in some ways without diminishing the soundness and usability of the product and its failure to do so created confusion. The Netherlands Supreme Court affirmed this standard again last year in the Allround v. Simstars case. A reasonably high threshold therefore, which, unfortunately for the claimant, was not met in this case. The wooden fireplace was different enough from the claimant’s design that there could be no obvious confusion.

The little fireplace survived this trial by fire. Its wood veneer saved the day. Had the claimant’s design registration been depicted by a colourless line drawing instead of in a solid (dark) colour, the finding might just have been different. In that case, the wood veneer might not have made a different impression on the informed user.

Fleur Jeukens, paralegal

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