A French Supreme Court (the Cour de Cassation) has recently overturned a decision of the Paris Court of Appeal which had given a 2013 ruling in a copyright infringement case. The case involves the famous Longchamp "pilage" bag which, according to Longchamp, is the most copied bag in the world. The Cour de Cassation found that the Court of Appeal was in violation of the French Intellectual Property Code (Article L. 122-4) which deems it illegal to reproduce fully or partially a protected work without the authorisation of the right holder. The supreme courts (Cour de Cassation and Conseil d’État) acts as a cassation jurisdiction, giving them supreme jurisdiction in quashing the judgments of inferior courts where those courts misapplied law. Generally, cassation is not based on outright violations of law, but on differing interpretations of law between the courts.
Longchamp issued copyright infringement proceedings in 2010 against a seller and manufacturer of a similar handbag. The Defendant argued that the Longchamp bag was an original combination of several elements used by every bag designer and so only the original combination was capable of copyright protection. In 2013 the Court of Appeal agreed and found that alleged infringing bag had “its own physiognomy, a particular aesthetic bias which alter the overall visual impression of this model as compared to the Longchamp bag, which precludes any risk of confusion, especially since the discriminating consumer of the famous Longchamp bag would immediately perceive these differences.”
Longchamp then appealed the case to the Cour de Cassation which held that there was in fact a copyright breach noting that "the existence of a likelihood of confusion is irrelevant to the characterisation of the infringement of copyright" and thereby lowering the burden of copyright infringement proof that the Court of Appeal had sought to impose.