WATKINS MANUFACTURING CORPORATION v PRESTIGE POOLS LIMITED & ANOR
High Court of New Zealand, Auckland, Jagose J, 26 – 28 March, 18 April 2018,  NZHC 709
Registered design – spa pool cabinet – whether defendants models infringed – assessment of novelty – Designs Act 1953 (NZ) ss 2, 5(2), 11(2)
The plaintiff (“Watkins”) was owner of a New Zealand registered design for a spa pool cabinet. Watkins alleged that the importation, advertising, offering to sell and sale of three models of Prestige’s spa pools infringed the registered design. Prestige admitted importation, advertising and offering for sale but denied sale and infringement. The trial proceeded on liability only.
Held (finding liability)
- From the statement of novelty and the representations in the design, the features of appearance of the spa pool cabinet were:
(a) comprised of a few horizontal planks, narrowly spaced vertically apart;
(b) joined at each of its four corners by a separate full height stout leg, of a material different from the cabinet, enclosing the abutting cabinet side ends in curved and chamfered dimensions tapering toward its base;
(c) with some indeterminate device high on the centre of each of those legs and at the internal extremities of each side of a high and deep angled recessed container base;
(d) together offering an illusion the contained spa pool's bulk was supported by the legs, rather than the base.
UPL Group Ltd v Dux Engineers Ltd  3 NZLR 135 (CA); (1988) 13 IPR 15 applied
- The Watkins product affirmed the product’s commercial embodiment of the design representations .
- The inspection of Prestige’s model SR805A gave the same impression as the design representations . While the central columns were likely required by the Prestige model’s need for weight distribution, there was no evidence that this necessitated their shape or configuration. The central columns of the registered design were not dictated solely by the function which the article to be made in that shape or configuration had to perform. Even having regard for the Prestige model’s additional central columns, they were not sufficiently distinct from its recessed base to affect the illusion of the cabinet being supported by its corner legs. The corner leg was the design’s conceit, rather than its reality .
- Prestige’s three models infringed as articles to which a design not substantially different from the registered design had been applied .