The Supreme Court held that the manual of a composite insurance product is a copyright work if such composite product involves a creative mixture of various insurance products put together to produce an original whole combined with a unique, simplified and entirely new tariff.

On 3 February 2017, the Supreme Court rendered judgment in case no. II CSK 400/16 where it found the manual of a composite insurance product to be a work within the meaning of Article 1 of the Copyrights and Related Rights Act (“CRRA”). The judgment is available here (only in Polish).

The plaintiff (an insurance agent) and the defendant (an insurance company) entered into an agency contract whereby the agent was paid a commission for providing its insurance intermediation services for the defendant. While not required under the contract, plaintiff structured a composite insurance product and proposed that the defendant make it part of its sales proposition. Plaintiff’s idea was to combine residential property insurance with comprehensive motor insurance (liability plus damage & theft) and to offer customers such a composite product with a reduced rate for the damage & theft component of the comprehensive motor insurance cover. In addition, plaintiff also showed the defendant a manual for the composite product, which described each of the component products, the exclusions, the scope of cover, the limitations of liability and the premium.

After that, the parties amended their agency contract. The plaintiff (and later on also other agents of the defendant) would sell the composite product in exchange for a commission from the defendant. Importantly, the defendant continued to use the composite product after his relationship with the plaintiff ended, even though the plaintiff sent him requests to cease any such further use. Finally, the plaintiff sued the defendant for copyright infringement seeking payment of damages for unlawful use of the product on the basis that it is a copyright work. In February 2017 the case reached the Supreme Court, which agreed with the plaintiff.

To determine if the composite product is a work, the Supreme Court justices turned their eyes to the manual. And they found that the manual indeed is a work for the purposes of Article 1 CRRA. The court found that the product’s originality and individual character was in the unique structure (composition) of the different kinds of insurance and in the related simplified tariff of rates developed specially for it. In other words, according to the Supreme Court, the plaintiff’s manual is copyrightable thanks to the “novel” business idea embodied in it.

Secondly, the Supreme Court held that defendant’s unlawful use of “plaintiff’s copyrights” involved sale of the products which made up the composite whole. The court concluded that the plaintiff as the exclusive holder of copyright in the manual is entitled to prohibit the defendant from selling the composite product itself (as a specific bundle of insurance) in accordance with the plaintiff’s idea expressed in his manual.

The case has stirred plenty of controversy and, due to its very controversial conclusions, the judgment has already attracted as many as two (critical) commentaries.

 

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