PUMA’s sneakers blunder
PUMA obtained a design registration in the EU for a particular design of sneakers, but it recently was declared invalid. The reason for that may be surprising, as it is because of some pictures that Rihanna had posted on her Instagram account a few years ago....
Rihanna x PUMA
Rihanna has been the creative director for PUMA since 2014. Under the name Fenty x PUMA, she launched quite a few collections that also secured a spot for the sports brand in the high-end fashion industry. After taking a short break, she will release a new collection under her own Fenty brand for PUMA at the end of this year. Hopefully this time she doesn’t share the new sneakers online before the design is registered...
Design protection of product designs
Designs are a form of intellectual property rights used to protect the appearance of products. A design registration can only be valid as long as the design is new and when it also has an individual character. The requirement of novelty means that the design shouldn't have been disclosed earlier than 12 months preceding the application. On the other hand, an individual character means that the design may not be strongly similar to an earlier design. See below PUMA's registration:
Spoiler: Rihanna delivers PUMA an invalid registration
However, an invalidity action was set against this design registration of PUMA. It turns out that Rihanna had posted several photos on Instagram in which the famous singer was wearing the sneakers that were the design of the design registration. Uploading photos on social media showing a product before registering the design could be considered as a disclosure of the design to the public. Moreover, Rihanna's Instagram posts received more than 300,000 likes and several news articles were published about the collaboration between PUMA and the singer.
Moreover, the design was released to the public more than 12 months before the application, so the requirement of novelty wasn't fulfilled. Therefore, the Invalidity Division of the European Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) ruled that PUMA's design registration was invalid, a decision that is now confirmed by the Board of Appeal as well.
The importance of design registration
This case shows how important it is to register your designs thoroughly before going public, as even an Instagram post can prevent you from protecting your designs. Just like with all Trademark registrations, it is important to go through the necessary formalities thoroughly. For additional questions about trademark or design registrations, you should always consult a trademark specialist.