The Swedish retail clothing company H&M has not been successful in its attempt to invalidate two registered community designs owned by the high end fashion designer YSL (judgement in cases T-525/13 and T-526/13, H&M Hennes & Mauritz v OHIM – Yves Saint Laurent). The designs were registered for handbags and can be seen below.

Click here to view image.

YSL had registered the designs in 2006, however in 2009 H&M filed applications for a declaration of invalidity against each design, arguing that the designs had no individual character. In support of its applications for a declaration of invalidity, H&M invoked its earlier bag design, which can be viewed below, but the Cancellation Division refused to invalidate the designs and subsequent appeals filed by H&M were dismissed in 2013.

Click here to view image.

In its decision of 10 September 2015, the General Court agreed with the findings of the Board of Appeal and held that the respective designs differed with respect to three features which decisively influenced their overall visual appearance, namely the overall shape, structure and surface finish of the bag. It was found that that the differences between the designs were significant enough to influence the overall impression of the informed user. It was held that the impression created by YSL’s designs would be that of a bag design “characterised by classic lines and a formal simplicity whereas, in the case of the earlier design, the impression would be that of a more ‘worked’ bag, characterised by curves, the surface of which is adorned with ornamental motifs.”

Although there were features common to the designs, namely the upper contours of the bags and the presence of a handle in the form of a strap attached to the bags by rings and rivets, the Court pointed out that the respective straps and handles had different uses: YSL’s designs featured a bag which is supposed to be carried by hand, whereas H&M’s design represents a bag meant to be carried on the shoulder. Taking the above into account, the General Court held that the differences between the designs were significant and that the similarities between them were insignificant in the overall impression which they produced. The Court ruled that YSL’s designs created a different overall impression on the informed user when compared to H&M’s earlier designs. It remains to be seen whether the General Court’s ruling will be appealed to the Court of Justice of the European Union.