Highbury accuses IPC of arrogance in 'copycat' case

Lawsuit: IPC is claiming Home (right) is a copycat of its Ideal Home

These covers are at the centre of the landmark “copycat” magazine legal battle with potentially dramatic repercussions for the press that begun at High Court this week.

IPC’s Ideal Home has launched a breach of copyright claim against Highbury House Communications’ Home magazine.

In the first case of its kind to come to court IPC alleges that Highbury Leisure Publishing, a division of Highbury House Communications, has copied editorial ideas from its marketleading home improvement title.

Highbury’s lawyers have countered by accusing IPC of arrogance for trying to copyright everyday design devices.

Media experts believe that if IPC wins, it could open the door to similar claims between rival magazine publishers and possibly newspapers.

IPC, whose Ideal Home magazine has run since 1920 and has a circulation of more than 270,000 copies, is asking Mr Justice Laddie to rule that Highbury has breached its copyright with Home magazine, which launched in 1995 and sells more than 60,000 copies.

IPC’s counsel, Martin Howe QC, told the judge: “IPC contends that the defendant has infringed its copyright in Ideal Home magazine. The complaints relate to the front cover and a series of internal features within Home magazine. The claim relates to the design, or template, of the magazine.

“IPC contends that Highbury has copied the key design features of the cover and of the relevant internal features, whilst in each edition putting in its own words, or copy, in much the same way as those design features are carried forward from edition to edition of Ideal Home itself.”

In papers before the court, IPC refers to particular similarities in the covers to the rival magazines, including similar strap-lines – “Britain’s best-selling decorating magazine” on Ideal Home and “The UK’s best decorating magazine” on Home – selections of photographs, and the use of a three digit number in the cover “hotspot”.

IPC claims the September 2001 issue of Home used the hotspot “375 fresh new ideas for every room” when, only five months before, Ideal Home had used the hotspot “375 new ideas for every room”.

IPC refers to similar use of fonts and layouts in internal articles which they claim breach their copyright.

Lawyers for Highbury describe IPC’s case as “extremely blinkered” and “arrogant”, claiming that anything that supports the theory of copying is relied upon while anything inconsistent with the theory is ignored.

The case is due to last eight days.

By Roger Pearson

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