IPC, publisher of market leading homes magazine ‘Ideal Home’ says competitor ‘Home’ breaches copyright in Ideal Home’s cover and features. We look at the clear similarities but question IPC’s prospects in Court at
IPC ("Ideal Home") Magazines and Highbury House Communications ("Home")
The Chancery Division of the High Court of Justice London
The UK Press Gazette reported on copyright infringement proceedings which had been brought by IPC, publishers of Ideal Home magazine, against Highbury House Communications, publishers of Home magazine.
Ideal Home was launched in 1920 and now has a circulation of more than 270,000. Home magazine launched in 1995 and sells around 60,000. The case being put before Mr Justice Laddie in Chancery relates to the design or template of the magazines and in particular their covers and various internal features.
There certainly is some similarity between the covers of the two, with the typeface and overall size of the "Ideal Home" and "Home" mastheads being fairly similar, appearing in a similar position towards the very top of the magazine cover and in a very similar shade of red. Both mastheads also have a long thin rectangular strip underneath the "Home" part. In the case of Ideal Home this carries the phrase "Britain's best selling homes magazine" and in the case of "Home" "the UK's best decorating magazine" appears. Both covers also regularly feature a "hot spot" consisting of 2 or 3 digit numbers in the context of a particular feature of that issue, such as "592 brilliant ideas for every room" or "371 style ideas you'll love". In fact IPC claim that the September 2001 issue of Home used the hot spot "375 fresh new ideas for every room" whilst only five months previously Ideal Home used "375 new ideas for every room."
IPC contends that Highbury has copied the key design features of the Ideal Home cover and of the relevant internal features, referring also to similar use of fonts and layouts in internal articles.
Highbury is defending the claims stoutly, describing IPC's case as "extremely blinkered."
Why this matters:
This is only the latest in a very long line of spats over similar magazine covers. Sometimes an additional or alternative claim of "passing off" is thrown in as well as one of copyright infringement. This is put on the basis that potential buyers of the magazines will be confused by the similarities and believe that both come from the same source.
If the IPC case is focused on copyright, then marketinglaw's immediate impression is that it faces an uphill task. We find it difficult to see any Chancery Judge giving much credence to a claim that the phrase "375 fresh new ideas for every room" is a literary work for the purposes of copyright protection.
Certainly the masthead typeface and colour and lower strip with strap line are strikingly similar, but there will be no copyright in the words "Ideal Home" and so far as the overall cover is concerned, we still have some doubts as to whether a mixture of pictorial images and words will be protected by the Court when statute drives the courts to look at artistic works and literary works in separate compartments.
For example, "compilations" are only recognised and copyright protected as such when they consist 100% of literary material. Possibly a cover may be classified as a graphic work but the issue has been cloudy in previous magazine cover cases and we look forward to clearer guidance in this case on copyright in periodical covers.