Metix (UK) Ltd v G H Maughan (Plastics) Ltd: ChD 1997

The plaintiff sought protect its products by claiming copyright protection in the moulds made for making industrial products (twin cartridges like a double-barrelled syringe, which held products prior to their being mixed) The plaintiff claimed that the moulds were works of sculpture.
Held: The plaintiff’s claim was not arguable. Laddie J based this on the function of the moulds: ‘The law has been bedevilled by attempts to widen out the field covered by the copyright acts. It is not possible to say with precision what is and what is not sculpture, but I think Mr Meade was close to the heart of the issue. He suggested that a sculpture is a three-dimensional work made by an artist’s hand. It appears to me that there is no reason why the word ‘sculpture’ in the 1988 Act should be extended far beyond the meaning which that word has to ordinary members of the public. There is nothing in the particulars in this case which suggests that the manufacturers of these moulds considered themselves, or were considered by anybody else, to be artists when they designed the moulds or that they were concerned in any way with the shape or appearance of what they were making, save for the purpose of achieving a precise functional effect. Nothing in the particulars given here suggests that any consideration of appeal to anything other than functional criteria was in mind or achieved. In these circumstances, it appears to me that there is no arguable case pleaded for the existence of sculpture copyright in the moulds for these products, and I will not allow the statement of claim containing such a claim to be served on [a defendant].’


Laddie J


[1997] FSR 718


England and Wales

Cited by:

CitedWildash v Klein 2004
(Supreme Court of the Northern Territory – Australia) The parties, two women, each of whom made craftwork depicting local wildlife for sale at markets. Initially they co-operated but later each accused the other of copyright infringement. The . .
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: 15 May 2022; Ref: scu.442601