Samsung have had a great success before the Community Design Court, which held that toner cartridges are not components of a complex products and are therefore Samsung's two Registered Community Designs for printer cartridges were valid and infringed, meaning that Samsung succeeded in its claim against Digital Revolution BV and Maxperian NL BV. If the toner cartridges had been found to be components of a complex product not visible whilst in use, like some spare car parts, they would have been exempt from protection under the Community Design Regulation and Samsung's designs would have been invalid.
The law on spare parts was principally brought into effect to deal with spare car parts; it is in the interests of consumers that there is a free market for spare car parts. The exclusion is for components that cannot be seen in normal use and that do form part of a complex product, but it does not cover parts that are visible in normal use (they can be protected by Community Design Right).
Samsung's case was heard in the Hague but the judgment will be taken into consideration across the EU. Samsung's victory will be welcomed by manufacturers of products that can be re-filled across the EU, because it has assisted in clarifying where the line is between so-called consumables, like "vacuum bags for vacuum cleaners, or rolls of film for cameras" as identified by the Marques blog and complex products. For non complex consumables, it is generally accepted that the fact that the components do form part of a product and too would need to be removed before those products could be dissembled does not mean that they are components of a complex product. The test for complex products is focused on longer lasting consumer products, and commentators generally agree that the intended purpose of the spare parts exemption in the Community Designs Regulation was to draw a distinction between things like printer toner cartridges and non-visible spare car parts.
If you have any questions on the above, please do not hesitate to contact the team at McDaniel & Co. on 0191 281 4000 or firstname.lastname@example.org: Designs, News