Copyright and Intellectual Property |  Feb 03, 2016

Collector Conditionally Discharged after Copyright Infringement Accusations

The Court of Criminal Appeal has recently confirmed a sentence of the Court of First Instance handed to a woman who had been conditionally discharged over copyright infringement related to the sale of Playmobil figures on the internet.

The case dates back to 2009, when Brandstatter Group, the company which manages Playmobil, filed a complaint against Victoria Vassallo, and notified the authorities that she had been selling scale-model scenes containing Playmobil figures, which were not part of its line of products, on the internet. Brandstatter Group complained that Vassallo had altered a trademark without the consent of the trademark owner thus infringing copyright laws.

In its decision, the Court of First Instance had found Victoria Vassallo guilty of failing to seek authorisation from the company for including their products in her sets.

During the proceedings, Vassallo described herself as a keen Playmobil collector for the last 30 years and that she would travel across Europe to meet collectors such as herself who would create their own scenes using Playmobil figures. The accused had even exhibited one of these scenes in court, which consisted of a miniature court room complete with all figures representing a magistrate, the prosecution and defence, evidencing the scenes she sold over the internet.

In its decision the Court of Criminal Appeal presided by Madame Justice Edwina Grima noted that while the accused had in fact been selling Playmobil products, these products were part of a larger set which also contained figures from other manufacturers. The court also held that Vassallo did not sell any product, label or mark that is identical to the registered Playmobil trademark. The reason behind this was that although some of the products bore the Playmobil brand, the figures were being sold differently to how the company produces them.

Nevertheless, the court pointed out that the accused had failed to indicate to its consumers that she was not selling products on behalf of the Brandstatter Group and that she has no links with the aforementioned company.

In view of the above, the court dismissed the Attorney General’s appeal and confirmed the sentence handed down by the Court of First Instance through which she had been conditionally discharged for six months.

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