Originality is a key aspect of copyright. A recent judgment of the Douai Court of Appeals has made it clear how crucial this element is under French law, and has confirmed that copyright may subsist in a store layout.
The case in question concerned the possible infringement of French copyright held by an Italian cosmetics company over its store layout. The Italian company argued that its store layout was original and that one of its competitors, a French cosmetics and accessories company, was infringing the copyright that subsisted in that layout.
Akin to English law, French judges are not to consider artistic merit when determining whether copyright may subsist in a work. The appeals court made clear that a work must be original to be protected by copyright. The Court expanded on the concept of originality under French law, stating that for a creation to be original it must bear "the imprint of the personality of its author".
The Italian company argued that the layout of its stores contained several elements, including the use of clean lines to ensure that customers would be able to clearly see their products, the use of specifically shaped furniture and the juxtaposition of colours to create an original layout. According to the Italian company, when combined, these separate elements gave rise to an original store layout.
The appeals court upheld an earlier judgment in favour of the Italian company, confirming that copyright may subsist in a store layout. It was this combination of the above mentioned elements to "satisfy the company's own concept of marketing of make-up products in an environment and a setting which are reminiscent of luxury and modernity" which satisfied the requirement of originality and the confirmed the subsistence of copyright.
The Court also went further to find that the French company committed unfair competition practices by trying to capture the clientele of the Italian company through imitating the store layout, in turn "depriving it of its singularity and diluting the specificity of its concept." Therefore, the Italian company was awarded damages and the French company ordered to dismantle its stores' layout.
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