The Regional Court of Hamburg ruled on 07.07.2016 that a copyright exists for design on the beer can 5.0(Ref.: 310 O 212/14).
The lawsuit was filed by the design agency that had designed the beer containers. This design was also used by other companies without permission, whereupon the design agency asserted copyrights. The Regional Court found the designs to be protected by copyright as works of applied art (Section 2 (1) no. 4, (2) UrhG).
On the question of what is covered by copyright protection, see our article “The Work in Copyright“.
Necessary individuality is given
In order to be a work worthy of protection, it must be a personal creation that has an intellectual content, has the necessary form design and has sufficient individuality. It was questionable in the present case whether the necessary level of creation in the sense of individuality had been reached.
In this regard, the judges referred to the “Birthday Train” decision of the Federal Court of Justice from 2013(Ref.: BGH I ZR 143/12). In this case, the Federal Court of Justice had ruled that, in principle, no different requirements are to be placed on works of applied art than on the copyright protection of other works. Thus, it is sufficient that the works of applied art have a level of design that, according to the perception of art by reasonably familiar circles, can be described as an “artistic” achievement.
According to the judges, the level of creation of the design in the specific case would result from the combination of the simple, clear, reduced features of the design, font, arrangement and color scheme. This would result in a purist, pure, unadulterated design that does not conflict with individuality, but is precisely different from the familiar designs of beer products.
The fact that other products have already used simplicity and purism does not contradict this, but rather it depends on the application of the style in the specific manner.
Conclusion: Copyright for design on beer can 5.0
Beer containers can be protected by copyright as works if they have the necessary individuality.
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