Interiors firm wins court battle against rival

A Coventry-based furniture wholesaler has won a design infringement case against an Oldham-based rival.

ASR Interiors won its court battle against AWS Trading, a rival which copied the registered designs of three items.

Taylors Solicitors partner Tony Catterall issued proceedings in the Intellectual Property Enterprise Court on behalf of ASR Interiors.

ASR, a family company founded in 2009, designs and sells original furniture designs to retailers across the UK. The business is a member of Anti Copying in Design (ACID), a trade association for manufacturers and designers.

In December 2018, the company registered the designs for a mirrored sideboard featuring thousands of tiny diamond-shaped crystals encased in glass and bevelled mirrored panels, and an angel wing mirror whose wings are finished with crushed diamond.

A month later, ASR registered the design for a scoop back, velvet-covered dining chair with diamond quilting.

Taylors became involved in October 2020 when ASR discovered a number of companies had copied its designs.

One of them was AWS, a furniture wholesaler based in Oldham, which sold copied items at a reduced price, causing significant loss to ASR.

The company had sought to defend the claim, which was brought to trial on behalf of ASR.

The judge who heard the case rejected claims by AWS that the designs lacked originality and that its own products were available before the application date of ASR’s registered designs.

In his written judgement, he found that AWS had fabricated documents to support its defence and that witness evidence from AWS was unreliable. Accordingly AWS had infringed ASR’s registered designs.

The judge granted an injunction preventing AWS from selling the infringing products and awarded damages to ASR, with the amount to be assessed at a later hearing. He also disallowed the caps usually applicable to recoverable costs and ordered AWS to make an initial payment on account of ASR’s legal costs of £25,000.

The case was also of interest because a witness called by AWS who was allowed to give evidence via video link appeared to be driving a van, with the camera of a mobile device on the passenger seat.

The judge stopped the hearing and ordered the witness to go to a secure location to resume giving evidence, which he did – firstly appearing to be in a busy, noisy office and then apparently in a store room but without his witness statement on him. Counsel for AWS eventually abandoned the attempted evidence, and the judge gave no weight to the statement of the witness.

ASR director Salman Rahim said: “I am delighted that ASR has been vindicated by these court proceedings. We take pride in the originality of our furniture designs, and it was distressing for me to see AWS put forward a fabricated defence which, but for the skill of our solicitors and counsel, might have been accepted by the court. AWS will now pay the penalty with damages as well as a costs liability.”

Catterall, head of intellectual property at Taylors Solicitors, said: “ASR prides itself on its original designs which it produces and sells to retailers across the UK.

“We are pleased to have succeeded in this claim on its behalf. It is difficult enough for designers to protect their rights against infringers seeking a shortcut into the commercial benefit of successful designs, without also having to cope with forged documents and falsified evidence.

“This successful claim illustrates that intellectual property rights can be protected through the courts, and ASR is to be commended for holding its nerve in taking the case to trial.”

A second case against another company which allegedly copied ASR’s designs is due to be heard in April.

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