Important damages granted in design infringement case
Published in “Managing Intellectual Property”, 2011
In one of the first major cases on design infringement in Romania, Bucharest Tribunal has convicted a Romanian company found to infringe the rights of Microfibers Inc. to pay 210,000 Euro as damages, as well as approx. 19,000 Euro a trial expenses.
After the worldwide leader in providing innovative textile solutions, Microfibers Inc. has found out in 2009 about the fact that a Romanian company – Derby Distributin SRL – is manufacturing and selling textiles that infringe its design rights and copyright, it has hired a private investigator to confirm this information.
The investigation revealed that Derby was indeed selling materials infringing Microfibers’ rights, directly from its warehouses. Such warehouses were not marked with banners, advertising posters or other promotional signs. The offices had dark windows, while the personnel were well instructed on how to protect the company’s interests.
Also, the investigation report showed that Derby had a well established and strict procedure in respect of potential clients. Thus, before granting access to such potential clients t0 the merchandize, the personnel questioned them about the purpose of purchase, and requested exact identification data for themselves and the companies they represented, all these circumstances showing that they were well aware of the seriousness of the breach committed in respect of Microfibers’ rights.
Following the results of the investigation, that confirmed that Derby was indeed infringing Microfibers’ rights, Microfiber has filed action in infringement in front of Bucharest Tribunal.
After filing the counterclaim, and even being represented before the court through its in-house legal adviser, the defendant has suddenly changed its address, and failed to notify the court about its new contact details. As no change with respect to the registered office of the defendant was registered with the Trade Registry, the court and the plaintiff were both unable to locate the defendant, so the court trialed the case without Derby being present.
Under these circumstances, and considering the favorable investigation report, it was relatively easy for Microfibers, holder of numerous design and copyright titles with respect to its designs, to convince the judge that the other party was indeed guilty of counterfeiting.
The decision issued by the court is subject to appeal. However, as in accordance with the Romanian law, the term for appeal runs from the communication of the decision to the defendant, and such communication does not appear to be possible in this case, due to the lack of any relevant information regarding the current address of the defendant, the date when the decision becomes final appears to be still a mystery.