On July 30, the Tokyo District Court delivered a ruling in the case of copycat fashion dispute pertinent to the shape of cold shoulder blouse.
[Case no. Heisei 29(Wa)30499]
Cold Shoulder Blouse
The case was brought into the court by PETTERS Co., Ltd. who complained MAXIM Co., Ltd. of unlawfully imitating a unique shape of cold shoulder blouse designed by plaintiff and damaging business interests by distribution of defendant’s “KOBE LETTUCE” cold shoulder blouses.
According to the court decision, plaintiff allegedly designed a new cold shoulder blouse featuring unique ruffle sleeve and long ribbon (see right in below) in February 2016 and began selling from August of the year. Subsequently, defendant imported similar blouses (see left in below) from Korea and promoted for sale in Japan since May 2017.
Unfair Competition Prevention Law
Plaintiff argued defendant shall be liable for his conduct because it constitutes violation of Article 2(1)(iii) of the Unfair Competition Prevention Law.
Article 2(1)(iii) of the Unfair Prevention Law prohibits unauthorized party from assignment, lease, display for assignment or lease, export or import of goods which shape results from imitation of goods belonging to other entity.
The party shall be exempted from liability if it passes three months from initial offer for sale of imitated goods at the time of his misconduct.
From the case law, it is construed that the article does not apply for imitation of a commonly used-shape in light of the purposes and objectives of the article.
The judge, however, did not clearly state if overall shape of plaintiff’s cold shoulder blouse shall be protectable under the article.
As a consequence, the court totally dismissed the case on the grounds that:
- There exists difference in the shape of ruffle sleeve and ribbon between disputed goods.
- The difference gives rise to distinctive impressive in the mind of consumers
- If so, the shape of defendant’s goods shall neither be identical with, nor deemed imitation of plaintiff’s goods.
Masaki MIKAMI, Attorney at IP Law – Founder of MARKS IP LAW FIRM