Rubik’s Loses Trade Mark Case

The European Court of Justice has today ruled that the shape of the puzzle is not capable of being protected by a trade mark. The decision sets aside a previous General Court judgment and has annulled the decision of the European Union Intellectual Property Office (‘EUIPO’) which confirmed registration of the shape of the puzzle as an EU trade mark.

The puzzle was invented in 1974 by Erno Rubik- a Hungarian architecture professor. It was first produced internationally in 1980, and has since gone on to become a popular toy that is loved by the young and old alike and to date more than 350 million cubes have been sold worldwide.

In 1999 Seven Towers- The British company which manages intellectual property rights relating to the Rubik’s Cube, registered its shape as a three-dimensional EU trade mark with the EUIPO.

In 2006, German toy manufacturer- Simba Toys challenged the trade mark protection.

In this long running case the EUIPO and a lower EU court had dismissed Simba Toys’ lawsuit. In 2014 the European General Court decided the three-dimensional trade mark was valid and ordered Simba Toys to pay costs. Simba Toys then took its case to the Luxembourg based European Union Court of Justice- the highest court in Europe.

European Court of Justice (‘ECJ’) has agreed that the cube’s rotating mechanism ought to be protected by a patent and not a trade mark. Simba Toys. The ECJ judges ruled “In examining whether registration ought to be refused on the ground that the shape involved a technical solution, EUIPO and the General Court should also have taken into account non-visible functional elements represented by that shape, such as its rotating capability”. The ruling further states that EU trade mark law seeks to prevent a company getting a monopoly on technical solutions or functional characteristics of a product.

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