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Interlego AG v Tyco Industries Inc

[1989] AC 217

Case summary last updated at 29/01/2020 15:24 by the Oxbridge Notes in-house law team.

Judgement for the case Interlego AG v Tyco Industries Inc

Lego had expired patent and design rights on its bricks. In 1972, Lego redrew the design drawings for its bricks – with substantial features of the previous design kept, and the only main changes being to the written information on the drawing which were of technical importance for manufacturing purposes. D made and sold bricks in Hong Kong which were compatible with those of Lego, by copying principal features of Lego’s design. Issue was whether post-1972 drawings had copyright.

Held:

 Lord Oliver
·        Skill, labour or judgment merely in process of copying does not confer originality.
·        Thus an exact copy is not original, even if making it required skill or labour.
Ø  copy must contain some alteration or addition to the earlier work.
·        Whether addition is sufficient is question of degree having regard to quality of addition.
Ø  And not the quantity.
Ø  Thus even relatively small addition may suffice.
·        Is no universal test of originality.
Ø  i.e. test in William Hillcannot be applied to all copyright cases.
·        On facts, graphical drawings were not original.
 
Obiter
·        A photo of an existing painting (or painting of an existing photo)does not have copyright.
·        Despite skill required in making the copy of the original photo/painting, the copy painting or photo are unoriginal.

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