The Kukuxumusu Universe, San Fermín and copyright. May a personal style be limited?

Monday, 27 of March of 2017

The long awaited Judgment of the mercantile Court number 1 of Pamplona in the procedure that confronts as defendant, among others, Mikel Urmeneta, and as claimant, the company founded by Mr. Urmeneta, KUKUXUMUSU IDEAS, SL (Kukuxumuxu) has seen the light in recent dates.

In essence the dispute brings cause of the following events. The defendant created a series of drawings and characters that with the time acquired a notable notoriety in Spain, creations that, following the terminology of the decision constitute the "Kukuxumuxu Universe ".

After several disagreements, Mr. Urmeneta left Kukuxumusu and undertook, along with the great majority of his creative team, a new project ("KATUKI SAGUYAKI", which - if we are not wrong if the vasque translation for-"cat food, mice delicacy). It was at this moment that the defendant transferred to the claimant the exploitation rights, namely, reproduction, distribution, public communication and transformation, over the creations that constituted the already mentioned Universe.

Some time later, Kukuxumuxu sued, among others, Mr. Urmeneta claiming that the drawings of the defendants reproduced on the website, would infringe the (exploitation) rights that had been transferred. Following the claimants’ arguments these drawings would be an unauthorized transformation of the creations that form part of the Kukuxumusu Universe.

The ruling concludes, siding with the plaintiff, that there would be copyright infringement. In order to justify it, the judge mainly basis her reasoning on the expert reports provided by the parties, ultimately choosing the one from Kukuxumusu given its "completeness and concreteness".

The said report carried out the comparison among the confronted works taking into consideration elements such as their iconography and context (associated with the world famous festivity of San Fermín), their lines, strokes, colors and composition and concludes that "the drawings Of Katuki Saguyaki present obvious similarities to the Drawings of the Kukuxumusu Universe ".

Precisely, the defendant's expert did not -at any time- questioned the previous conclusion and expressly acknowledged that "there is a close relationship between the drawings that commercialize both marks ... This is doubtless." However, according to the defendants, the resemblance of the drawings ultimately responds to a mere question of styles, since - evidently - all of them are created by the same people.

Following this line of argument, the debate should not be considered in absolute terms (are there similarities between creations?) But should be relativized taking into account the specific circumstances of the instant case (are the similarities sufficient considering that they refer mainly to the style of the creators and that all the drawings have been devised by the same people?).

We understand that the judge, in addition to the similarity in the strokes, lines, colors and composition (issues linked to a particular style) ends up confirming the infringement by the fact that the drawings considered to be illicit reproduced the same characters, and used the same themes, and of the original works.