UCL Faculty of Laws


The CJEU decision in Brompton Bicycle (Case C-833/18): an original take on technical functionality?

By Dr Ilanah Fhima, Reader in Intellectual Property Law at UCL Faculty of Laws and Co-Director of the Institute of Brand and Innovation Law.

Diagram of a bicycle

3 December 2020

Publication details

Fhima, Ilanah; (2020). 'The CJEU decision in Brompton Bicycle (Case C-833/18): an original take on technical functionality?', European Intellectual Property Review, 42(11), 761.


In Brompton Bicycle, the CJEU considered copyright protection of functional product designs. Protecting such artefacts through copyright law raises difficult questions of whether subject-matter previously protected by patent or design law, but which has since entered the public domain, should be re-enclosed via copyright. However, unlike trade marks and designs, EU copyright has no functionality exclusion, nor, following Cofemel, can technical works be excluded from copyright per se. Nonetheless, using basic copyright principles of originality and the designer’s creative freedom, the Brompton court crafted a functionality exclusion in the absence of a legislative basis.

This piece argues that while this decision demonstrates a degree of convergence in the approach to functionality across the different IPRs, how the functionality exclusions apply in practice is likely to be different. Also, questions remain about how this decision will be applied in practice—including what will be a relevant design constraint and regarding the approach to subject-matter consisting of a mixture of technical and non-technical features.