There were chuckles in court this morning when a woman who is accused of violating intellectual property law by selling Playmobil toys turned up in court with a Playmobil model she had created, showing the court chamber, complete with Magistrate, the blonde deputy registrar, defence and prosecution.
Vicky Vassallo stands accused of commercial fraud and breach of copyright. She was first arraigned two and a half years ago after she set up an e-bay account through which she sold sets of Playmobil figures built into her own scenes.
Giving evidence today, Mrs Vassallo said she had been collecting Playmobil toys for 30 years and was 'obsessed' with them. She even attended Playmobil toy fairs around Europe where collectors like herself meet up, exchange figures and compete in the creation of the best scene (diorama).
These fairs, she explained, were promoted by Playmobil and the prizes were awarded by Playmobil itself.
At this point, she exhibited a Playmobil version, she created, of Magistrate Antonio Micallef Trigona's courtroom and presented it as evidence. The Magistrate and the officers of the court chuckled as she explained how she assembled the model, using different parts from various sets. For example, she said, the chairs were taken from a Victorian dining room set which belonged to a doll's house made by Playmobil. She jokingly pointed to the court usher and said she could not make one like him!
She said the creation of sets such as this was called customising, and Playmobil had issued books precisely on customisation.
She presented a press release issued abroad by Playmobil which gave guidelines on what people should avoid when customising Playmobil products, such as scenes of violence. She always respected those guidelines, Mrs Vassallo said.
She said her e-bay page was fully regulated and she did everything by the book with regards to selling and buying sets.
In cross examination, Police Superintendent Carmel Magri asked her if she was authorised to create these sets and sell them on. She said such authorisation to create such sets was not needed. The Playmobil figures were sold on as second hand goods, she explained.
Defence counsel Joe Giglio, asked the police superintendent what car he had. Supt Magri said he had a nine-year-old Peugeot and before that he had a Skoda.
Dr Giglio asked him whether he had authorisation from Skoda to sell on the car. Did he have authorisation to change its tyres.
The Superintendent said he did not have authorisation, but no official complaint was filed against him.
The case continues.