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Protecting designs, copyrights and trademarks:
The Italian versus the EU way

Introduction

Italy is certainly well-known for its cultural heritage spanning more than two thousand years. Counting 49 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, it holds a greater number of such sites than any other country worldwide. It is therefore no wonder that today’s 21st century Italy contains multiple traits attributed to the “Bel Paese” (The Beautiful Country), in particular those related to its pleasing cuisine and modern but timeless design. The latter, a wonderful expression of the eternal Italian creative spirit and its natural sense for beauty, has long been a subject for different types of legal protection. Dating back to 1868, the Italian legal and doctrinarian system has since undergone many, often fast and radical changes. Some of these changes are due to the fact that Italy is member of the EU.

We refer, in particular, to the respective EU Directives in rem which came into force over the last 15 years. The first and foremost point to observe here is the 180° epic conversion from the narrow old to the wider new system: before, the law basically allowed only for an alternative protection, where artistic works fell exclusively under the copyright law, industrial designs under the ornamental model law, and distinctive shapes under the trademark law.

Now, the law allows for a full cumulative protection under all the aforesaid intellectual property rights (provided, of course, that each of their single requirements is met in every specific case).

Although a digression into the vivid legislative past would definitely be worth a longer sojourn, the current observations will rather focus on the actual aspects of gaining exclusive rights on designs (understood as visible outward forms or patterns) in Italy and the European Union.