European Court shapes trademark laws following puzzling IP case

News Article

An iconic toy, which has fascinated and frustrated young and old alike since it was invented in 1974, has this month lost a court battle that had protected its intellectual property (IP) rights in Europe.

The Rubik’s Cube puzzle, which was invented by Hungarian architect, Erno Rubik, has had its three-dimensional shape registered as a EU trademark with the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) since 1999.

However, British firm, Seven Towers, which manages IP rights for Rubik’s Cube has seen its trademark protection overturned by Europe’s highest court after a successful legal challenge by German-based Simba Toys.

Simba Toys’ lawyers successfully argued that the cube’s shape was not sufficient to grant it protection from copycat puzzle makers and that the rotating action should be protected by a patent rather than a trademark.

BJ Chong, a Partner and intellectual property expert with Palmers, said: “The reason that the court’s decision is such a significant one, rests with the fact that patents allow inventors exclusive commercial use of their inventions for a set period of time only.

“However, trademarks provide exclusive and perpetual right to designs, logos, phrases or words for as long as the trademark remains registered.”

Simba Toys took its case to the Luxembourg-based European Union Court of Justice (ECJ) after both the EUIPO and a lower EU court dismissed its lawsuit. ECJ judges agreed with Simba Toys’ legal argument which is now final and cannot be appealed.

However, Rubik’s Brand Ltd.’s president David Kremer said: "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."

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