As it is common knowledge, despite the importance of design and styling within the Italian economy, our legal system paradoxically provides for a rather restricted protection of them. In the absence of pecific special laws and faced with the limits of prosecution of servile copying of another person's product, there is only the protection granted to ornamental models which is subjected to their patentability and restricted to the duration of the patent itself.
Furthermore the Courts tend to not recognise the existence of copyright to the creator of a design work.
Said difficulty arises on the one hand from an unacceptably broad interpretation of the rule which excludes the automatic extension of the provisions on copyright to models as such (art. 5 Law 1411/40); and on the other from the uncertainties which arise regarding the meaning of the provision of law according to which works of "art applied to industry" are protected by copyright "so long as their artistic value can be severed from the industrial nature of the product to which they are associated" (art. 2 no. 4 Law no. 633/41).
Whilst the debate continues as to the meaning of said "severability" requirement in the numerous conferences on the subject and among authors of legal writings, we have recently had a protective order of the Pretore of Parma who, in a very innovative way, recognises to industrial design, when they have the requisite of novelty and sufficient originality, the protection provided by the copyright law, not under the terms of the disputed provision mentioned above, under art. 2 no. 4 of Law 633/41 ("works of art applied to industry"), but on the basis of no. 5 of the same article ("architectural designs and works"); in other words the judge for the first time extended copyright protection to furnishing objects and products, in as much as they are interior architectural works. Said order was analised and commented upon by Simona Cazzaniga in an article which has been published in "Foro Padano" Quarterterly Law Review and which is at the disposal of any of our readers who wish to consult it.
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