Young Israelis who travel the length and breadth of the Land of Israel or serve in the IDF, and wish to protect their tefillin (phylacteries) from the elements will, from now on, be purchasing special protective tefillin cases from one source – Tefillin Beit El, a company based in the town of the same name that has pioneered modern marketing of the ancient boxes and scrolls that are worn by Jewish males 13 and over daily, except for Shabbat and holy days. A Jerusalem court on Wednesday ordered an injunction against further sales of a protective case marketed by Art Judaica, an Israeli company that specializes in Judaica – after the court determined that Art Judaica's protective case was essentially a copy of Tefillin Beit El's “Tefidanit” protective case.
While most people who carry their tefillin to and from synagogue make do with bags made of cloth or velvet, many young Israelis prefer the protective cases, which are easier to travel to and from school and hikes with, and are longer-lasting than cloth bags. The protective cases are usually made of strong plastic, covered in water-resistant nylon, and are able to withstand the elements far more successfully than velvet or cloth bags. The cases come in several models, which allow the transport of not only tefillin, but of a tallit (prayer shawl), prayer book, and even personal items such as wallets and sunglasses.
The cases are popular among teenagers who commute to and from schools, as well as IDF soldiers, who find carrying the cases far more convenient and safe, avoiding damage to the tefillin that cost several thousand shekels and up.
For several years, Tefillin Beit El's Tefidanit – a perennial favorite as a Bar-Mitzvah gift for young Israelis – had the market to itself. Later on Art Judaica started marketing its own version, similar in design (if not in quality, according to many customers). The Art Judaica model, on the other hand, was less expensive than the Tefidanit, making it a popular choice.
Tefillin Beit El has long sought to halt sales of the Art Judaica model, claiming that it infringes on their patent and design. Art Judaica disagreed, saying that there were “substantial” differences between the products, and that large parts of the Tefidanit were not subject to copyright, as they were based on universal designs that could be employed by anyone.
On Wednesday, however, Jerusalem District Court judge Ben-Zion Greenberger said that he agreed with Tefillin Beit El, and ordered that sales of the Art Judaica cases be halted. Art Judaica has six months to wrap up its sales. If the company wants to sell protective cases similar in design to the Tefidanit, they must license the design from Tefillin Beit El – and if they are caught selling or marketing the cases, they will be fined NIS 50,000 ($13,000) for each violation. Art Judaica's attorneys said they would not dispute the decision.
Gilad Corinaldi, and attorney for Tefillin Beit El, expressed satisfaction at the decision. “When it comes to holy objects, there is an extra dimension of justice in the victory of an original over a copy,” he said.