T-Shirts, bicycles or lamps… are we talking about art? And what does that imply?

The shape of a product can be protected by various IP rights, typically as a shape mark or a design. The latter is expressly defined as “the appearance of the whole or a part of a product resulting from the features of, in particular, the lines, contours, colours, shape, texture and/or materials of the product itself and/or its ornamentation” in Article 3 (a) of Regulation (EC) No 6/2002 of 12 December 2001 on Community designs. The outer appearance of (functional) everyday objects is therefore generally protected by the means of design law. But can this outer appearance of a (functional) product, such as a t-shirt, a bicycle or a showcase lamp, also be considered art and give rise to copyright claims? And what does that entail?

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