Copyright claim less than INNOCENT!

The High Court has granted a declaration that Fresh Trading Ltd, which ran the INNOCENT smoothie business, was the owner of copyright in its main brand logo. The facts of the case are particularly interesting.

The design agency from whom Fresh Trading commissioned the logo under a consultancy agreement had gone into liquidation. Its purported interest in rights in the logo and other works produced under the agreement had been purchased by a third party which had, in turn, assigned that interest to a holding company. The holding company subsequently obtained a declaration of invalidity of Fresh Trading’s Community trade mark registration of the logo, based on its own purported ownership of copyright in it.

As neither party to the proceedings had been able to produce a copy of the signed agreement, and there was no mention of any such copy in contemporaneous emails, the judge decided that there had been no effective legal assignment of the copyright.

However, as the agreement provided that copyright ownership would pass on approval of any designs by Fresh Trading and such approval had undoubtedly occurred, he found that there had been an equitable assignment.

The fact that the design agency had not received the remuneration (in the form of shares) provided for in the agreement did not negate the assignment. The judge added that, even if he had not found an express assignment on the facts, he would have found that there was an implied assignment of the copyright, as this was the only arrangement that made commercial sense. Furthermore, even if Fresh Trading had not owned the copyright, the holding company would have been estopped from enforcing its copyright at such a late stage after Fresh Trading had built up a substantial business based on the logo.

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