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JGM, Solicitor
Category: UK Law
Satisfied Customers: 11133
Experience:  30 years as a practising solicitor.
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My question is regarding copyright infringement. Games Workshop

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My question is regarding copyright infringement.

Games Workshop are a company that produces miniature soldiers, and plastic tank kits for use in their table top war games. The tanks require painting and assembly (think airfix). The model kits are not based on real world tanks, but on imaginary tanks of their own creation, which are somewhat distinctive and recognisable in their design.

I have created my own model tank 'kit' out of card/paper. The tank requires printing onto photo paper, cutting out, folding, and gluing to produce a 3D model.

My model was originally for personal use, and is based heavily on the Games Workshop tanks (An imitation if you will). While it does not include any trade marks or copyrighted symbols. It is strikingly similar in size, shape (the limitations of card permitting), and design... right down to the position and appearance of exhausts, hatches, vents and weapons.

I would now like to distribute my model over the Internet (give it away so that other people can print it off and make it). Obviously it would not be distributed as an imitation, nor would I claim any affiliation to Games Workshop or their models or games.

My question is: Would my model's appearance (subjective as that is) be enough to infringe on Games Workshops intellectual property? As the model is similar enough in size, shape, and design that I think it would be obvious to most people who see the two models side by side, that my model was at very least 'inspired' by Games Workshop's design (even if I do not distribute it as being so).
Thank you for your question.

You would be in breach of copyright. It doesn't matter that theirs is made of plastic and yours is made of card.

You should work on your own designs so as to avoid a claim for breach of copyright.

I hope this helps. Please press ACCEPT so that I am credited for my time.
Customer: replied 6 years ago.
Hello thank you kindly for you response. However I'm not sure your response answers my question.

I realise that building materials or mediums would not prevent me from being in breech of copyright... But that is assuming the general shape of a vehical is copyrightable in the first place and to what extent if it's an original design.

My question is really about what kind of things can legitimately be copyrighted.

For example certain things I know can definitely be copyrighted, such as images, logos, and product names. However my model would not be using or copying any of those.

Certain things cannot be copyrighted; such as game mechanics, the colour blue, or even a tank... No one could claim to have the sole copyright of something as generic as a tank or a train or a car, preventing other people from making their own versions of those vehicles.

I frequently see toys for sale which are blatant 'knock offs' of popular toys and merchandise, with little changed apart from the name. I see kit cars which resemble more expensive cars (just without the badges).

I wanted to know the legality of all this. The nature of the object in question is very complex and subjective and hard for me to understand in terms of law. I don't know if it would be considered a toy, or something like a sculpture, I'm unclear on if two toys being similar is considered copying or just fair competition... That is why I posed my question here, to hear from someone who is more familiar with the peculiarities of copyright law.

I'm very sorry if my question was unclear.
Thank you for your response. I would not have answered your question were I not expert in copyright law. Nothing can legitimately be copyrighted. Unlike patents or trademarks, copyright exists in the work and there is no need to register a copyright. Whoever comes up with the work first is the copyright owner. It applies to books, songs and designs such as you are proposing. You are confusing trademarks with copyright according to your response. What you intend to do as I understand it is use someone else's design for a toy tank and recreate it on a website for your own benefit as opposed to use your own design. Carry on if you want but you are exposing yourself to civil action. I know that this is not the advice that you want to hear but that's the law. Your question was answered first time round. Check out my advice at if you are still not convinced. Please press accept so that I am credited for my time.
JGM, Solicitor
Category: UK Law
Satisfied Customers: 11133
Experience: 30 years as a practising solicitor.
JGM and other UK Law Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 6 years ago.
Well the tank is my own design, and my own work. But it is close to the GW design in overall shape, because obviously it was referenced from their tank.

If you think that sounds too close to be original(or at least non-infringing), then I will accept your expertise in this matter. I don't have a problem making my own designs as the GW ones are a little bland for my taste anyway.

Thank you kindly for your advice :)
You are welcome.
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Recent case of LucasFilm v Ainsworth would suggest that in fact designs are separate from artistic works, and the advice given here was uninformed.



No it says that sculptures are different from artistic works. The case was dependent on its own facts and would not necessarily extend to your situation. And in any event the Lucas judgment post dates your own question and was not law at the time.
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

I asked you if things like designs fall under copyright, and they don't they fall under design rights which is different. Insisting that you know the answer to a question when you are just guessing is unscrupulous. I want my £11 back.

With respect design right had no application to what you were talking about.

You said that your work "design" was something that could be printed off for other people to make. As such your work is an artistic work, specifically a graphic work under section 4 of the Act, therefore copyright law applies. It is certainly not a sculpture.

I have tried to help you and I am opting out completely now. Doubtless if another expert wants to express a view they will do so.
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

If you had read the question you would know that the 'graphic work' that can be printed off is completely my own work, and wouldn't resemble anything anyone else has done. I would hold the copyright for that.


However when cut out and assembled, the 3D shape that it makes is that of a tank. The tank in question is from a work of fiction, and there are various plastic models/sculptures of it already in existence. In much the same way as the storm trooper is from a work of fiction, are there are various models of it.


I asked if the 'design' of the tank was something that was covered by copyright. And clearly it isn't. It would fall under design right. That would have been interesting to know. In fact that was what I wanted to know.


A real expert might have been able to explain that. Had you not already turned up here with your misinformation, and then 'opted out' with the money.


Thanks for nothing.


I see the previous expert has opted out and that you have
asked for a refund. Do you still require any further advice? Whilst I agree
with what the above expert has said. I can add some practical advice for you,
which will assist you in staying out of court. The courts use a very simple
test. Obviously, I am unable to answer you if you have had a refund because I
am unable to answer on a free of charge basis.

Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Thank you, but I do not need any further assistance. The LucasFilm v Ainsworth case seems to show quite clearly that toys/sculptures/models that are mass produced, in different scales, by different artists, with a primary purpose that is not 'aesthetic value'. Are considered 'designs' and not 'works of art', and are therefore protected by design rights, but not necessarily copyright.


The question is somewhat academic now, since I no longer have any intention of distributing the model. Nor would I wish to go to court over it (right or wrong).