UK fashion company Karen Millen has won a significant legal battle against Dunnes Stores, after the European Court of Justice ruled in its favour over the protection of fashion designs.

Karen Millen brought the case alleging Dunnes breached European regulations by copying a woman's shirt and top.

The case centred on the interpretation of the 2002 regulation relating to the protection of fashion designs.

The outcome was keenly awaited as it would have ramifications for all high street retail chains.

Karen Millen launched the top and shirt in December 2005 and Dunnes put similar items on sale in the Savida range at its stores in 2006.

The European Court of Justice was asked to consider whether the Irish Supreme Court was obliged to treat a design as valid where the alleged right holder had merely indicated what constituted its "individual character" rather than established that character as a "matter of fact".

In its ruling, the ECJ found in favour of Millen and rejected arguments by Dunnes.