Protection of copyright: the Supreme Court's position on the Castiglioni "1954" lamp

Protection of copyright: the Supreme Court's position on the Castiglioni "1954" lamp
Castiglioni "1954" lamp

The Supreme Court issued an ordinance on April 29th that concluded a long-standing dispute surrounding the copyright protection of an industrial design work, specifically the Castiglioni "1954" lamp.
The ordinance clarified that the lamp does not constitute plagiarism of the setup of the 10th Triennale di Milano in 1954, bringing an end to the controversial case. 

The legal battle was instigated by the daughter and heir of the renowned designer and inventor of the lamp, leading to a family feud. However, the recent judicial decision between the two cousins has put an end to the legal dispute. 


The initial ruling by the Milan Court had favored the plaintiff, establishing that the lamp exhibited creativity and artistic value regardless of its location. It concluded that the lamp was the focal point of the setting and possessed its own autonomy, artistic value, and significance. Consequently, the court deemed that the original lamp had been plagiarized by the architect, who was the nephew of the designer. 

The judgment prohibited the manufacture and sale of the lamps, ordered the withdrawal of the products from the market, and imposed fines for every unit in circulation. However, the appellate court overturned this decision, stating that for works of industrial design to be eligible for copyright protection, they must possess a unique artistic value beyond their utilitarian function.
It emphasized that the architect had been recognized for the overall exhibition design rather than the individual lighting fixture.
The court highlighted specific differences between the original and the subsequent lamp, such as variations in dimensions and functional components, leading to a different impact and illumination effect. 

The Supreme Court's first civil section concurred with the appellate court's ruling, providing a comprehensive analysis of national and European legal frameworks on the subject. It outlined that for industrial design to be protected under copyright law, it must exhibit originality and novelty, with its artistic value distinct from its industrial nature. 

International directives emphasized that creative intellectual input unique to the author is essential for a work to be considered a copyrightable "creation."
The Supreme Court upheld the territorial court's decision, determining that the iconic significance of the lamp lay not in the lighting element itself but in its function within the exhibition space. It concluded that the artistic value of the lamp did not hold significance, as the focus should be on the overall scenographic function within the exhibition space. 

Ultimately, the court elucidated that the lamp's artistic character was eclipsed by its role as a component of the exhibition's spatial construction. 

In conclusion, the Supreme Court's definitive pronouncement has resolved the contentious issue surrounding the "1954 lamp," providing valuable legal insights into the protection of industrial design within the framework of copyright law, both at the domestic and European levels.

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