EU Court Of Justice Says The Shape Of Rubik's Cube Should Not Be Trademarked

from the form-over-function dept

You all should be familiar with a Rubik's Cube, the three-dimensional puzzle toy that for some reason your grandmother kept on her coffee table to frustrate you while she watched Matlock. This invention of the 1970s still enjoys widespread popularity, with hundreds of millions of them being sold every year. The toy has been patented for some time, but ten years ago, a British company that manages the intellectual property rights for the toy also applied for trademark protection on the cube's design in the EU. The reason for this should be obvious: patent protections last for limited amounts of time, while trademark rights exist essentially in perpetuity, so long as it's actively used in the marketplace. It's an end-around to patent law designed to lock up a monopoly.

But, in the case of the Rubik's Cube, it didn't work, as the European Union Court of Justice has correctly determined that the trademark applied for by Seven Towers was for a functional and technical solution, not one of branding. German competitor Simba Toys had challenged the trademark, and it won.

ECJ judges agreed with Simba Toys' arguments. Their decision is final and cannot be appealed.

"In examining whether registration ought to be refused on the ground that 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," they said.

EUIPO will now have to issue a new decision based on the ECJ judgment.

Representatives from Rubik's Brand Ltd. were quick to respond, breathlessly wringing their hands over how this decision will obviously destroy the brands and innovation within the toy market.

Rubik's Brand Ltd's president David Kremer said he was baffled that the court ruled that functionality or a technical solution is implicit in the trademark.

"This judgment sets a damaging precedent for companies wishing to innovate and create strong brands and distinctive marks within the EU, and is not what European lawmakers intended when they legislated for 3D trademarks," he said.

But we can set the Chicken Little shit to the side, here. The damaging precedent would have been if the court instead allowed companies to treat trademark so disdainfully as a technical end-around to patent law. There is a reason why patents have set time periods for protection and getting around them by trying to apply trademark law to that which is clearly in the realm of patents would do the very thing Kremer claims to fear: prevent innovation. After all, given how overprotective companies have become when it comes to their trademarks, it's easy to see how Rubik's would respond to any other toy maker attempting to make a toy involving anything resembling a rotating cube. This was about monopolizing a market, not innovation.

It's good to see a high court slap down attempts like this, regardless.


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Nov 2016 @ 1:39pm

    Time to trademark the Human Skull Shape

    Once that is approved you bitches are gonna owe me big!

    ~Patent Troll

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Lawrence D’Oliveiro, 10 Nov 2016 @ 1:48pm

    If You Cannot Trademark The Shape Of A Platonic Solid ...

    ... where will the incentive to create new Platonic solids come from?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 10 Nov 2016 @ 1:50pm

      Re: If You Cannot Trademark The Shape Of A Platonic Solid ...

      Plato must be rolling in his grave!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 10 Nov 2016 @ 2:44pm

        Re: Re: If You Cannot Trademark The Shape Of A Platonic Solid ...

        Yes, but mostly to expose the new solid he had just created.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 10 Nov 2016 @ 6:07pm

          Re: Re: Re: If You Cannot Trademark The Shape Of A Platonic Solid ...

          No one is ever interested in the solids I create.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Lawrence D’Oliveiro, 10 Nov 2016 @ 7:59pm

      Do I Really Need To Explain The Joke?

      If you don’t know what a Platonic solid is, it has been mathematically proven that there are only five of them.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Nov 2016 @ 5:31pm

    If Simva Toys can trademark a cube with colours, can I trademark a cude with dots? Could I trademark the concept of a cube?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    afn29129 (profile), 10 Nov 2016 @ 7:56pm

    Easy solution.. Longer patent terms

    Easy solution.. Longer patent terms.. Much much longer. How about 95 yrs? retroactively applied of course.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Niall (profile), 11 Nov 2016 @ 5:34am

    Given the massive explosion of Rubik-style variation puzzles when it first became big in the early 80s, I somehow don't think innovation was hurt much with no trademark protection, even for Rubik themselves.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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