The trademark was a three-dimensional EU trademark on the shape of the cube which the company – through its intellectual property rights manager, British company Seven Towers – was awarded in 1999, Reuters
The trademark was challenged by German firm Simba Toys in 2006 which argued that the design which features moving parts was inappropriately protected by a trademark. Simba argues a patent is more apt to protect the product.
Simba lost at the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) which granted the trademark and at lower EU court, but has won big at the higher court. Nonetheless, people should not expect to soon see a flood of lower-priced Rubik’s cubes on the markets.
“We are disappointed by today’s decision by the ECJ. While the Rubik Brand is fortunate in having other trademarks, copyright, passing off and unfair competition protection to rely on which will continue to ensure its exclusivity, 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,” Rubik’s Brand UK President David Kremer told The Guardian
Kremer added that the firm is “baffled that the court finds functionality or a technical solution implicit in the trademark.” In their decision, the ECJ noted that the rotating element of the cube is functional.
“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,” the judges argued.
The ECJ decision is final and not subject to appeal which forces the EUIPO to issue a new decision.
Invented by Erno Rubik in 1974, more than 360 million copies of the Rubik’s Cube, which was originally called the Magic Cube, have been sold.
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A major trademark owned by the company that makes the Rubik’s Cube has been struck down by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) last week.