Ferrari 250 GTO is an iconic work of design that is protected by copyright law

ON JUNE 20, 2019, THE COURT OF BOLOGNA RULED THAT THE SHAPES OF THE ICONIC AND WORLD-FAMOUS CAR ARE ELIGIBLE TO ACCESS THE COPYRIGHT PROTECTION AS A WORK OF INDUSTRIAL DESIGN.

Thanks to its elegant and harmonious shape, on June 20, 2019, the Court of Bologna considered the most famous Italian car, Ferrari 250 GTO, to  be an industrial design work, pursuant to Article 2, paragraph 10 of Law no. 633/1941 (the “Copyright Law”).

The ruling has been issued in the appeal phase of an  interim proceeding that was brought before the Court of Bologna by the famous Italian automaker, Ferrari S.p.A., against Design Modena s.r.l., a company active in the business of the personalization of luxury cars, and the author of  a rendering that is inspired by the Ferrari 250 GTO (which was designed by the well-known designer, Maestro Scaglietti) and published it in a specialized magazine.

With regard to works of industrial design, Article 2 paragraph 10 of the Copyright Law requires, in addition to the generally necessary minimum level of creativity, the requirement of artistic value.

The question is how can one assess artistic value. Based on the so-called “judgment of history” theory, the artistic value is traceable in those works that, after an a posteriori assessment, have been universally considered to be a work of art. This assessment shall be based on solid, objective clues, such as the opinions of art critics, references to the work in major trade magazines, exhibitions of the work in the most important museums and exhibitions, the fact that the work has acquired a market value so high that it exceeds the objective functional value, etc.

Well, according to the Court of Bologna, the Ferrari 250 GTO meets the above requirements for artistic value, in addition to creative ones. Indeed, it is an iconic car model that is universally considered to bes an authentic piece of art, due to the harmony, elegance and artistic value of its lines and design. In the  case at stake, the Ferrari’s artistic value has been proved through several awards, the high quality attestations given to the car in a number of trade magazines, and, most importantly, the fact that only 39 models of the car have been marketed and one of them was recently auctioned for 41 million euro – a value that clearly exceeds the car’s functional value.

On this basis, the Court therefore ascertained that Design Modena S.r.l. “has basically achieved the replication of someone else’s work, re-proposing lines, shapes and other aesthetic elements that allow the aforesaid car to enjoy authorial protection.

As a consequence, the Ferrari 250 GTO has been declared a work of industrial design and the copyrights for it belong exclusively to the automaker. Accordingly, Ferrari has been granted a preliminary injunction against Design Modena, prevented that company from carrying out and exploiting any reproduction of Ferrari’s shapes, in the absence of an express authorization from the copyright owner. The case is still subject to the proceedings on merit.

It is not the first time that a masterpiece of the Italian automotive industry has been considered a work of art that deserves  copyright protection. Indeed, in 2017, the Court of Turin ruled in favor of the symbol of the Italian Dolce Vita, the Vespa Piaggio (Court of Turin, Decision no. 1900/2017). On the contrary, the Court of Turin did not recognize the artistic value of the Alfa Romeo Giulietta SZ and the Lancia D24. (Trib. Torino 31. 01.2019).

In the light of the above, it seems clear that the assessment of the creative value, can be carried out on a case by case basis, only with regard to iconic pieces of work that, in some way, have survived the judgment of time and entered into history.

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