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Greetings Cards Company Pays Price for Copyright Infringements

It is only right that those who make commercial use of others' creative ideas without permission should be hit hard in the pocket. Exactly that happened in a High Court case in which a greetings cards company was found to have serially infringed copyright in a designer's original works.

The designer had during her career created over 2,300 celebratory cards, many of them involving swatches of fabric decorated with beads, sequins and stitching. She had for a time licensed the company to produce a selection of her cards, but it had continued to do so without her authority after that agreement was terminated. It had also produced two cards that were infringing copies of her designs.

The designer's corporate vehicle, to which she had validly assigned her copyright in her creations, launched proceedings against the company. In upholding the claim, the Court rejected the company's argument that she had designed the cards in the course of her employment with another greetings cards business and had therefore never owned copyright in the works.

Although the company had divested itself of most of its assets, the Court found that its sole director and shareholder was jointly and severally liable for the acts of infringement. The ruling means that the designer's company is entitled either to damages or an account of profits generated by the sale of infringing cards. The amount of the award has yet to be assessed.

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    Using intellectual property after the legal right to do so has expired can be expensive. It is normally far better to arrange a 'run-off' agreement. Contact us for advice.

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