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Case preview: design rights at play in baby baths battle

Royal Court of Justice

After the Trunki v Kiddee design case made its way up to the UK Supreme Court, another dispute, Shnuggle v Munchkin, is brewing

This oddly named dispute might sound like something out of a fairy tale but the case, due to be heard before the England and Wales Intellectual Property Enterprise Court this month, could make for an interesting design dispute.

The claim, filed by baby product maker Shnuggle, alleges infringement of two registered Community designs (RCDs) – 002224196-0001 and 002616763-0001 – as well as various UK unregistered designs, directed to its ‘Shnuggle Baby Bath’. 

Shnuggle is seeking an injunction to restrain the defendant, US-based Munchkin, and a UK counterpart called Lindam, from infringing its design rights. It also wants an order for delivery up or destruction of all infringing articles, and their recall and removal from commerce.

Munchkin, the claim alleges, threatens and intends to import into and sell in the UK and the EU a baby bath called the ‘Sit & Soak’ (S&S). 

The S&S product is available to buy on Amazon and retailer Argos and open to UK customers.

The Shnuggle, according to the claim, is currently the “Amazon number one best seller for baby baths and tubs” and is sold at various retailers throughout the UK.

According to the claim: “The shape of the S&S is the same or substantially the same as the shape of each of the Shnuggle designs which are relied upon. The similarities are so great that it is highly unlikely that they arose by chance, and very likely that they arose by copying.” 

It adds: “There is considerable design freedom available to a designer of a baby bath. Subject to the requirement that the bath must be of a size suitable for bathing a baby and should be capable of retaining water, a baby bath can be made in many different shapes.”

The defendant claims that the RCDs should be declared invalid.  

They add that the informed user is not merely an adult member of the public, as Shnuggle claims, but is a parent with a child of 0 to 12 months who is well-researched and particularly aware of the differences between various competing childcare products.

It remains to be seen whether this will attract the same attention as Trunki, in which the Supreme Court found that the Kiddee case did not infringe the design rights held in the Trunki ride-on suitcase

The case will begin on September 23. Gowling WLG is acting for Shnuggle and has instructed Michael Hicks of Hogarth Chambers. Munchkin is being represented by D Young & Co, which has instructed Lindsay Lane QC of 8 New Square. 

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