Breville Europe v Thorn EMI Domestic Appliances Ltd: ChD 1995

Copyright was asserted in plastic shapes used as moulds for the heated plates in a sandwich toaster.
Held: The defendants had not appropriated the plaintiff’s designs contained in their drawings in producing their own machine. Falconer J (obiter) said: ‘Turning to the plaster shapes or sculptures, the defendants contended that these were not sculptures within the meaning of section 3 of the Copyright Act on the ground . . that they were purely mechanical or functional devices [under] section 1 of the definition of ‘sculpture’ in the original statutory provision relating to copyright in sculptures, section 1 of the Sculpture Copyright Act 1814 . . I do not see why the word ‘sculpture’ in section 3 of the Copyright Act 1956 should not receive its ordinary dictionary meaning except in so far as the scope of the word is extended by section 48(1) which provides that ‘ ‘sculpture’ includes any cast or model made for the purposes of sculpture.’ The Concise Oxford Dictionary defines sculpture as the ‘Art of forming representations of objects etc or abstract designs in the round or in relief by chiselling stone, carving wood, modelling clay, casting metal, or similar processes; a work of sculpture,’ a definition . . in the textbook . . where it is suggested that: ‘Since copyright may subsist irrespective of artistic quality it would seem that, for example, carved wooden patterns intended for the purpose of casting mechanical parts in metal or plastic might well be susceptible of protection, although the point has not yet received much attention from practitioners.’


Falconer J


[1995] FSR 77


Sculpture Copyright Act 1814 1


England and Wales

Cited by:

CitedLucasfilm Ltd and Others v Ainsworth and Another SC 27-Jul-2011
The claimant had produced the Star War films which made use of props, in particular a ‘Stormtrooper’ helmet designed by the defendant. The defendant had then himself distributed models of the designs he had created. The appellant obtained judgment . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Intellectual Property

Updated: 18 May 2022; Ref: scu.384438