A CASE taken by UK firm Karen Millen against Dunnes Stores looks certain to have wide-ranging implications for the fashion industry after one of the EU's top legal officials said that onerous burdens of proof should not be placed on holders of so-called 'unregistered community designs'.
An advocate-general at the European Court of Justice issued his opinion after the Supreme Court had raised a number of points last year related to design law that it wanted clarified before ruling on a landmark case involving Dunnes, which has 23 stores in Northern Ireland, and Karen Millen.
The opinion also means that Dunnes faces the prospect of losing its Supreme Court case.
Last year, Dunnes Stores launched a Supreme Court appeal to a High Court ruling in relation to the protection of fashion designs.
The High Court had previously found that Dunnes Stores had breached EU rules by copying a woman's shirt and top sold by Karen Millen and then selling it in its own outlets.
Karen Millen's UK parent company, Mosaic Fashions, had claimed in the High Court that Dunnes produced almost identical women's clothing to items it produced, thereby infringing design rights as protected by a new EU regulation of 2002 on unregistered community designs.
Karen Millen launched the top and shirt in December 2005 and Dunnes put similar items on sale in the Savida range at its stores in 2006.