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In a recent ruling, the Frankenthal District Court stated that pictograms can also be protected by copyright and therefore cannot simply be printed on T-shirts without permission, as is done here in the current decision. The defendant was a well-known supplier of T-shirts in the dropshipping business.

The fact that a pictogram can be protected by copyright is nothing special per se. It is interesting, however, that the Court of First Instance also saw this given here, even though the plaintiff obtained the unedited pictogram from freely accessible sources, in order to implement it afterwards, using the illustrator en saying ‘football is a matter of the head’, by placing his head on the the football pictogram and used it as football.

Copyright protection enjoys in accordance with Section 2 para. 2 UrhG is only a product which is considered a personal spiritual creation in accordance with Paragraph 2(3) of the 2 UrhG. For this, it must have a certain design height and individuality. The feature of the design height is intended to exclude simple everyday products from copyright protection. On the one hand, the requirements for the design height must not be too low. On the contrary, because of the extensive powers of the author and the long period of protection of Paragraph 64 of the UrhG, the case-law requires a not too small degree of design height. The copyrighted work must have an individual imprint. On the other hand, the feature of the design height must not be misunderstood in such a way that only outstanding works of a particular type of work are protected by copyright. Regardless of artistic value, copyright also protects average products, provided that they have the necessary degree of individuality.

A work of fine arts in accordance with Section 2 para. 1 No. 4 UrhG is thereafter, if the author has used means of expression such as colour, line, surface and space for the design of forms and the work has a personal intellectual creation in accordance with Paragraph 2 para. 2 UrhG. The product must have sufficient design height, so that, in the opinion of the art-sensitive and somewhat familiar with art-views, publiccircles can speak of an artistic achievement. No works of visual art are therefore simple, everyday and pre-known designs without a minimum of individuality and meaningfulness for the viewer, even if the production was possibly time-consuming.


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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