To the German Version of the website.

Since I know quite a few fans of Eiermann tables in the office, especially in the startup sector, I just found this ruling by the OLG Frankfurt from the end of November very exciting.

If the protectability of a minimalistically designed tubular steel table frame is justified by diagonally attached cross struts, a table frame with vertical struts does not constitute a distortion of this model in violation of copyright law. In a decision announced today, the Higher Regional Court of Frankfurt am Main (OLG) rejected claims for damages for infringement of moral rights.

The plaintiffs in these proceedings the children of a well-known German architect who in 1953 had designed a welded tubular steel table frame with central, sloping cross-bracing. An assistant to the architect wanted to move with such a table model. To make it transportable for the move with his vehicle, a so-called duck, he hired a master locksmith. The latter sawed up the table and developed an alternative for reconnecting the cross braces. This resulted in the table frame later named “E2”. The original oblique cross bracing was replaced by vertical in the “E2” model, which increased the practicality of the table frame. The table frame designed by the master locksmith went into mass production in the mid-sixties and is distributed by the defendant.

The plaintiffs are now seeking damages from the defendant. They believe that the design of the defendant’s table frame distorts or impairs the model originally created by their father in a way that is contrary to copyright.

The Frankfurt Regional Court had dismissed the action. The appeal was also unsuccessful before the OLG.

The plaintiffs could not claim damages because of the alleged distortion or impairment of their father’s work, the OLG stated.

It is irrelevant that the original piece of the challenged model was created by a physical intervention in the form of sawing up and reassembling the architect’s original table model. The plaintiffs did not object to the manufacture or distribution of this original piece, but to the reproduction. It was irrelevant for this whether the frame had actually been disassembled at that time or only in the imagination.

The “E2” model also does not interfere with the “overall intellectual-aesthetic impression of the 1953 frame.” The “classification of the 1953 frame as a copyrightable work (can) only be justified on the basis of the diagonally attached cross struts,” the OLG reasoned. However, this diagonal cross bracing was missing from the “E2” model in particular. Although the overall minimalist design is also characteristic of the 1953 table frame, it is not protectable as a style in its own right. Insofar as the model “E2” also has a minimalist-looking tubular steel construction of a table frame, this alone is a non-protected style of a table.

Marian Härtel

Marian Härtel

Marian Härtel is a lawyer and entrepreneur specializing in copyright law, competition law and IT/IP law, with a focus on games, esports, media and blockchain.

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