Court holds that retrofitted AGA Cookers do not infringe AGA’s rights

The judgment in a significant trade mark and copyright infringement claim brought by AGA was handed down on 8 July 2024 (AGA Rangemaster Group Limited v UK Innovations Group Limited & Anr [2024] EWHC 1727 (IPEC)). Various issues arose in the case, including the exhaustion of rights, legitimate reasons to prevent further commercialisation, subsistence of copyright, the section 51 CDPA defence, and joint tortfeasorship.

The sale of renovated and retrofitted AGA cookers in the aftermarket is a common practice. Notwithstanding, AGA took issue with the Defendants’ eControl System, a retrofit product that converts existing gas and oil range cookers to electric, thereby enabling otherwise obsolete AGAs to be repurposed. It was alleged that the Defendants had infringed AGA’s trade marks, in addition to its copyright in the AGA control panels.

The Court held that the acts of conversion and retrofitting of which complaint was made did not give AGA legitimate reasons to object in respect of cookers in which its rights had been exhausted. It was also found that the allegations of post-sale confusion had failed. Trade mark infringement was, however, found in respect of some of the Defendants’ historical sales and marketing materials.

AGA also failed on its copyright claim, with the Court finding that the section 51 CDPA defence applied and thus there could be no copyright infringement. Likewise, it was held that the Second Defendant was not liable as a joint tortfeasor along with the First Defendant company (on the application of the recent Supreme Court decision in Lifestyle Equities v Ahmed).

The decision is a welcome endorsement for both the Defendants and all those operating in the AGA aftermarket.

Simon Malynicz KC and Kendal Watkinson appeared for the Defendants (instructed by Brandsmiths).

The full judgment can be accessed here: https://www.judiciary.uk/wp-content/uploads/2024/07/Aga-v-UK-Innovations-judgment-final-for-handing-down-pdf.pdf