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Comment on “Metalco” – “Top-Tier Design”, Copyright Protection, and the Assessment of the “Artistic Value” Requirement Under Italian Law

Decision of the Supreme Court of Cassation, I Civil Division (Suprema Corte di Cassazione, Sezione I Civile) 13 November 2015 – Case No. 23292/2015

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  1. 1.

    Article 2(4) of the Italian Copyright Act (ICA) of 22 April 1941.

  2. 2.

    For an introduction, see Annette Kur and Thomas Dreier, “European Intellectual Property Law: Text, Cases and Materials”, Edward Elgar, (2013), p. 368.

  3. 3.

    See Francesca Morri, “Le opere dell’industrial design tra Diritto d’autore e tutela come modelli industriali: deve cambiare tutto perché (quasi) nulla combi?”, in 2013(4–5), I Riv. diritto industriale p. 178, at 182.

  4. 4.

    The example comes from Mark Bosshard, “La tutela dell’aspetto del prodotto industriale”, Torino, 2015, p. 61.

  5. 5.

    R.D. 25 maggio 1940, No. 1411.

  6. 6.

    Directive 98/71/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 13 October 1998 on the legal protection of designs, in OJ L 289, 28/10/1998, p. 28–35.

  7. 7.

    The Directive was implemented by D. Lgs. 2 February 2001, No. 95.

  8. 8.

    A critique of the thesis of the revival of the separability rule under the new wording of Art. 2(10) ICA is lucidly reported by Philipp Fabbio, “Disegni e modelli”, in Scuffi-Franzosi (ed.), “Diritto industriale italiano”, Padova, (2014) I, p. 524, with copious reference to academic opinions and domestic case law.

  9. 9.

    The first was normally denominated “patent approach” and the second “copyright approach”. Ex multis, see Friedrich-Karl Beier, “The Future of Intellectual Property in Europe – Thoughts on the Development of Patent, Utility Model and Industrial Design Law”, in 22 IIC p. 157 (1991).

  10. 10.

    On the normative concept of “art”, some considerations are offered in Bosshard (supra note 4), pp. 70–73; and in Philipp Fabbio, “Che cos'è arte? una sentenza del tribunale di Venezia sul «valore artistico» delle opere di design e sul giudizio dell'esperto”, in 2016(1) Riv. Diritto Industriale p. 62.

  11. 11.

    Decision of the Supreme Court of Cassation, I Civil Division, 13 November 2015 – Case No. 23292/2015, supra. For a translation of this decision by Marco Bellia, see this issue of IIC at doi:10.1007/s40319-016-0520-7.

  12. 12.

    See supra.

  13. 13.

    See Fabbio (supra note 8), pp. 526–527.

  14. 14.

    Says the Court: “It is well possible that artists not yet recognized as such are able to produce works of artistic value”.

  15. 15.

    See supra.

  16. 16.

    According to the Supreme Court, “a famous artist does not necessarily always and in any case produce works of artistic value”.

  17. 17.

    On this point, some thought-provoking considerations are suggested by Mario Perniola, “L’arte espansa”, Torino (2015), p. 83.

  18. 18.

    Commercial Court of Milan, 12 July 2016, case No. 70313/2013, Moon Boot, available free of charge at

  19. 19.

    In the Italian academic debate, the opportunity for a narrower interpretation of the concept of “artistic value” has been defended by Philipp Fabbio, “Contro una tutela ‘facile’ del design. Considerazioni a margine di una recente pronuncia della Cassazione tedesca (Bundesgerichtshof, Sent. 13 novembre 2013 – ‘Geburtstagszug’) e brevi note sul diritto italiano vigente”, in 2015(1) Riv. Diritto industriale I pp. 45, 51–62.

  20. 20.

    German Federal Supreme Court decision of 13 November 2013, I ZR 143/12 “Birthday Train” (Geburtstagzug), 45 IIC p. 831 (2014). For a comment on the use of the “museum test” in Germany under the so-called “theory of tiers” and on the unclear effects of the German Supreme Court decision Geburtstagszug, see Ohly, “Where is the Birthday Train Heading? The Copyright-Design Interface in German Law”, in Festschrift Rosen, 2016, p. 591.

    Another sign of this trend is that, in the UK, Sec. 52 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 was recently repealed, and as of 28 July 2016 copyright protection of designs was extended from 25 to 70 years.

  21. 21.

    Decision of the Supreme Court of Cassation, I Civil Division, 29 October 2015 – Case No. 22118/2015.

  22. 22.

    Something similar occurred in Scandinavia beginning in 1970: see Jens Schovsbo and Stina Teilmann-Lock, “We Wanted More Arne Jacobsen Chairs but All We Got Was Boxes – Experiences from the Protection of Designs in Scandinavia from 1970 till the Directive”, in 47 IIC pp. 418–437 (2016).

  23. 23.

    On the competitive effects of copyright protection for works of applied art, see Gustavo Ghidini, “Profili evolutivi del Diritto industriale”, 3rd edn., Milano, 2015, p. 271.

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Correspondence to Marco Bellia.

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For a translation of the “Metalco” decision, see this issue of IIC at doi:10.1007/s40319-016-0520-7.

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Bellia, M. Comment on “Metalco” – “Top-Tier Design”, Copyright Protection, and the Assessment of the “Artistic Value” Requirement Under Italian Law. IIC 47, 875–881 (2016).

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  • Supra Note
  • Industrial Design
  • Copyright Protection
  • Supreme Court Decision
  • Strict Test