Country: GB
Tribunal: House of Lords
Date:
Case No.: --
Parties: Amp Inc v.Utilux Pty Ltd
Design: 896716 & 896717
Citation(s): [1972] R.P.C. 103 (HL)
Author: David Musker, R G C Jenkins & Co

Facts
This case (further explained in Interlego v Tyco, [1988] R.P.C. 343) was an infringement action under designs 896716 & 896717 for electrical crimp connector terminals to be used in a washing machine. The terminals sat inside, and were not visible except to the repairman. The defendant claimed that the design was invalid, on various grounds, specifically that it was dictated by function, and that it had no "eye appeal". The evidence of the designer was that it was designed with only function in mind, to act as an electrical connector and fit into a space. However, parts of it could have been made in different shapes.

Findings
The House of Lords considered that the words "dictated by function" could have one of two different meanings; they could mean that function was the designer's only interest, or they could mean that only function left no possibility of using a different shape. They held that the legislation was intended to have the first meaning. It also lacked "eye appeal"; it was not intended to create any impression on the eye of the intended customer which would influence his choice. Thus, for both these reasons, the design was invalid.

Relevance to the new laws
The wording of the functionality exclusion was amended to use words (in English) very similar to those words “features … which are dictated solely by the function the article has to perform”. The words in the new law are “features ... which are solely dictated by the product's technical function”. It is possible that such similar words were used because they came from the English case law. It is also interesting to note that the judges used the term “individual character” when describing the “eye appeal” requirement of the old UK law.