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Handbags at Dawn: YSL prevails in design dispute with H&M

18/09/2015
Fashion retailer H&M Hennes & Mauritz BV & Co. KG ("H&M") has failed in its long-running bid to invalidate two Community design registrations for handbags, both owned by luxury fashion house Yves Fashion retailer H&M Hennes & Mauritz BV & Co. KG ("H&M") has failed in its long-running bid to invalidate two Community design registrations for handbags, both owned by luxury fashion house Yves Saint Laurent SAS ("YSL").

Applications to register YSL's designs were filed at the Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market ("OHIM") in 2006.  They became registered the following month.  In 2009, H&M applied to the OHIM's Cancellation Division for a declaration of invalidity against YSL's designs, on the basis that they lack individual character when compared to an earlier handbag design sold in H&M's stores from 2005.

H&M was unsuccessful before the Cancellation Division and on appeal (before the Board of Appeal).  Its most recent appeals have now also been dismissed by the General Court which has found that YSL's designs create a different overall impression to H&M's design and possess individual character as a result.  Consistent with the Board of Appeal's decision, the General Court felt that YSL's designs were characterised by classic, angular lines and an overall simplicity, whereas H&M's design is more "worked" and features curved lines and ornamental motifs.  The General Court added that the "differences between the designs at issue are significant and…the similarities between them are insignificant in the overall impression which they produce".  The validity and continued registration of YSL's designs have therefore been upheld, although H&M may still appeal the General Court's decisions.

The full text of the General Court's decisions can be found here and here and images of the relevant designs are shown below:

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