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No Copyright in the US, no “Droit d’Auteur” in France, says the French Supreme Court !

[30/11/2020] Ruling on the shape of the so-called “Tulip” chair designed in the US by Ereo Saarinen, the “Cour de Cassation” was invited to verify whether protection through “Droit d’Auteur” is available in France, by virtue of the Berne Convention. The reciprocity clause of the Berne Convention (article 2.7.) states that Member States must afford to works created abroad the same protection as that granted to those created on their own soil. It was found that the conditions of protection of applied arts differ on both sides of the Atlantic.

In France, one should check whether a work of art, even intended to industrial purposes, bears the author’s artistic personnality. In the USA, works of applied art are excluded from Copyrigt protection unless they incorporate independant artistic features that may be regarded, by themselves, as works of pure art.

The “Tulip” chairs do not incorporate any such artistic characteristics, but only functional ones.

As such, the chair’s shape that cannot benefit from Copyright protection in the country of origin is not either eligible to protection in France, by application of article 2 (7) of the Berne Convention.

An immediate consequence is that whereas the “Tulip” furniture can freely be reproduced in France, the “TamTam” stool of Stamp «TamTam » on the other hand remains protected by  “Droit d’auteur”, as recently confirmed by the Judicial Court of Lyon on 20 October 2020.

The protection regime applicable to works of applied art is thus far from being internationally harmonized, and we remain at your disposal to identify and define the most appropriate strategy for the protection of your creations.

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