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Historic ruling gives Vespa legal protection from foreign fakes

The shape of Italy's iconic Vespa scooter is subject to copyright protection, according to Turin judges who on Thursday ruled that a Chinese company could not market their imitations of the product in Italy.

This is the first time the Vespa's design has been officially recognized as a 'unique work of industrial design'.

The civil case in Turin was brought by Piaggio - the company behind the Vespa - against Chinese company Zhejiang Zhongneng Industry Group. The Chinese company denied accusations that its model 'Ves' was a Vespa copy, but Piaggio claimed it had a right to the distinctive shape.

Judges ruled in Piaggio's favour, saying the Ves could not be marketed in Italy and that Piaggio own the copyright to the 'three-dimensional shape' of all its models.

This means it has the same protections against imitations as a song or artwork, for example.

First created in 1948 to meet the need for reliable, affordable transport in Italy's war-damaged cities, the scooter has become an iconic symbol for Italy, featuring in Hollywood films and plenty of souvenir shops.

Over the years, the design has inspired many copies, with production of most imitation models stopped after only a few years.

The iconic scooter made the news recently as Italy voiced alarm over Donald Trump's plans to 'blacklist' products including motorcycles and scooters. "Trump declares war on the Vespa", read one headline.

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