Proving copyright ownership is not smooth sailing for Innocent
Fresh Trading Ltd ("Fresh"), which owns the Innocent brand, has been successful in its copyright ownership dispute over its now famous "Dude" logo.
The subject of the dispute was the unsigned agreement with a design company marked "heads of agreement" and "subject to contract". This provided for the assignment of rights in all designs created and subsequently approved to Fresh.
Fresh faced a High Court claim from the design company's successor on the basis that it owned the copyright in the "Dude" logo and Fresh's use amounted to copyright infringement. Fresh argued that the parties had acted in accordance with their (unsigned) agreement.
The High Court held that Fresh were the equitable owners of the copyright. Although there was no signature giving rise to a legal assignment of rights, "there was an agreement which both parties regarded as covering their relations and as contractually binding."
This case serves as a stark reminder of the importance of addressing the allocation of intellectual property rights when entering into new relationships and obligations with other parties. Parties should ensure that they have clear, legally binding contracts in place from the outset to fully protect their brand and reduce the likelihood of a dispute in the future.