Earlier this year, a consignment of 250+ folding bicycles was imported into Holland by Neobike Europe, a Dutch firm who distribute Taiwanese folding bikes in Europe. The bikes were branded Scoop, and, said Brompton, were based "almost exactly on the Brompton design." Brompton launched a lawsuit: and has just won it.Brompton charged Neobike Europe with breach of copyright and/or authorship rights. Brompton's case was successful, with a judgement ruling that the Scoop bikes did indeed infringe Brompton's copyright: this ruling was made in Groningen on February 26th but details were not released until today.
Brompton also obtained an interim attachment order relating to the goods, and the bikes are now impounded, pending a final decision on their disposal.
Although Brompton's original patent covering the principle of folding has elapsed, the design and styling of the Brompton nonetheless have copyright protection, and this has been confirmed by the Groningen judgement.
"Many other excellent and original new designs of folder have also appeared in recent years, and we welcome such competition: it genuinely serves to generate interest in the concept," said Brompton's founder Andrew Ritchie.
"But we are not happy to see products with styling contrived to be similar to that of the Brompton: this confuses the consumer, and can do damage to the marque, especially if performance and/or quality is not as good. Brompton has pioneered many refinements that make a portable bike a pleasure to own and use, and our designs involve great attention to detail and an unrivalled understanding of how such bikes are used. This is what has secured our success, and naturally we do not wish to see this undermined by copiers with little feel for how a quality portable bike should perform."
Translation from Dutch of the key point (section 4.1) of the Groningen judgement:
Firstly in this case one must clarify whether the Brompton does in fact - as Brompton c.s. have maintained - possess an original character and bear an original mark of the maker, thus allowing the Brompton to enjoy copyright protection.
?One must conclude that this is indeed the case here. While it is undoubtedly true, as Van Ellen c.s. [Neobike Europe] have asserted, that the Brompton features various elements which, taken individually, can also be found in other foldable bicycle models, the specific combination of the folding technique, the design of the bicycle in the form of an "H" and the form of the handlebars in the form of a "U", all in combination with the bent horizontal frame tube, nevertheless mean that the Brompton, taken in its totality, can clearly be regarded as an original work with a personal mark of the maker.