It’s a design now hugely popular across the world on T shirts, dresses and underwear. But blown up images of the colourful but microscopic Norovirus bacterium may breach copyright, according to lawyers for the germ. The distinctive green and orange design, now as familiar on the high street as it is on TV News broadcasts, has been made into printed fabrics which have gone “viral” according to design and fashion insiders. Norovirus pyjamas lead the sales charts, with duvet covers and scatter cushions close behind.
But Norovirus lawyers have warned companies including Primark, Gap and Marks and Spencer that use of the vivid microscopic image on clothing and fabric needs to be paid for. With millions of items already sold, the tiny but pretty bug could demand huge sums in compensation, making it the wealthiest illness on record.
The fashion world has hit back. Zara O’ Donnegal, whose “Puke!” range of T shirts have sold millions said “It makes me sick that this little bug should demand money after all the damage it’s done. Yes it’s pretty and it’s fun, but if we were to pay royalties to what is, after all, an annoying illness, where would it end?”
Legal experts say it is the first time a vomiting bug has sought to protect commercial copyright in its microscopic image. “It’s a fascinating idea” said Marcus Simmons of media law firm Simmons and Hopwood. “People associate the norovirus with projectile vomiting and volcanic anal events. The beauty is that close up, the virus has a paradoxically attractive design, and its lawyers understandably want to see that monetized.”
Simmons advised people not to wear the norovirus T shirts till the case has been decided , and suggested sufferers should instead photograph their own vomit and silk screen print the result on T shirts and leisurewear. “Natural law dictates that the vomiter has copyright in his or her own vomit, unless it contains a proprietary brand of diced carrot or other vegetable” advised Simmons.
Initial Norovirus cases were to be heard in American courts, but time after time proceedings had to be adjourned due to the effects of close contact with the virus, which demanded to be present in court, under its own special microscope. It’s understood attorneys' fees have trebled after spontaneous courtroom accidents, said to be worth hundreds of thousands of pounds in spoilt legal trousers.
Elsewhere, it’s understood more than one company is preparing a range of T shirts featuring the human genome. But with as many as three billion components in a single human’s genetic ID, it’s understood the garments will only be available in extra large sizes.