Reckitt Benckiser has won a High Court ruling in a lengthy dispute with Procter & Gamble over claims that the design of Reckitt’s Air Wick Odour Stop is an exact copy of P&G’s Febreze air spray.

Lord Justice Jacob has ruled that there is sufficient difference in detail between the two products despite previous rulings in P&G’s favour. The judge found that the Air Wick product does not infringe the Registered Community Design Right that P&G had obtained for Febreze.

The decision provides the first authoritative guidance on the Registered Community Design Right legislation, which was introduced in 2002. The ruling states that protection includes any design that does not produce, on the informed user, a different overall impression.

The design of P&G’s Febreze was deemed to give an elegant, airy impression whereas Reckitt’s Air Wick Odour Stop did not, despite having similar features.

UK High Court proceedings began in February 2006 when P&G sued its rival over the design of its Air Wick product. At the same time, P&G launched injunctions in several European countries.

Today’s ruling overturns a previous decision in December 2006 when the High Court ruled in P&G’s favour and banned Rectitt Benckiser UK from manufacturing and commercialising the Air Wick product across Europe (MW 21 December).

It is now is now free to sell the Air Wick product across European markets.