Kohler Mira has brought a case involving electric shower designs to Patent Court, accusing Bristan Group of breaching its Intellectual Property rights.
Kohler Mira brought the case against Bristan Group, asserting that the design of Bristan's Glee, Joy and Smile showers had been copied from Kohler Mira's existing Azora product. This, Kohler Mira claimed, infringed Kohler's IP rights.
Judge Birss QC described the Mira Azora to be a very significant departure in the field of electric showers when it was launched in 2006, making "a significant impact in the UK market" and achieving "substantial sales".
In the case of the unregistered designs, Judge Birss found that two of Kohler Mira's designs were unoriginal, but that Bristan Group had infringed other unregistered designs of the Azora electric shower with its Glee, Joy and Smile products. The Judge noted that the case was "near the borderline", but ruled in Kohler Mira's favour.
As a consequence of the ruling, Bristan must now pay damages to Kohler Mira in connection with past sales of all three products. Bristan has taken a license of right for the surviving unregistered design rights to continue to sell the products, and will pay licence fees to Kohler Mira going forward. The company is also considering appealing against the ruling.
With regards to the registered design claim, the Judge rejected Kohler Mira's claim that Bristan Group had infringed the registered design, and awarded Bristan costs for that part of the case.
Kohler Mira's marketing director Craig Baker said: "Kohler Mira invests significantly in research and development in the UK; and it's unacceptable that our competitors try to acquire the same brand traction as ourselves on the cheap. One of our guiding principles is to live on the leading edge of design and innovation, and it is vital that this is backed with a strong commitment to enforce our intellectual property. We cannot and will not allow our investment to be misappropriated. Consequently, it should not be underestimated as to how aggressively we will seek to enforce our intellectual property rights in the markets in which we operate."
Jeremy Ling, CEO of Bristan Group, said: "Bristan Group respects all design and Intellectual Property rights and our employees are required to adhere to the highest ethical standards. We take the integrity of original product design very seriously and this has been vindicated in the judge’s ruling that our designer did not copy the design of Azora, that our products do not infringe the registered designs and that we can continue to sell our Smile, Glee and Joy products."