The European General Court has upheld a European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) decision to cancel a trademark held by the Rubik’s Cube.
The famous puzzle was invented in 1974 by Hungarian inventor Ernő Rubik and has sold around 400 million units worldwide. In 1999 the toy was granted an EU trademark protecting the Cube’s distinctive cube-shape and its corresponding “3x3x3” grid design. However, Seven Towns, the British company that oversees the Rubik’s Cube IP, appealed when, in 2017, the EUIPO canceled the mark. This decision followed successful proceedings brought by the German toy manufacturer Simba Toys, which argued that EU law prevented the registration of “signs consisting exclusively of the shape of goods which is necessary to obtain a technical result”.
Rejecting Seven Towns’ appeal, the European General Court held that “ … when the shape of a product merely incorporates the technical solution developed by the manufacturer of that product and patented by it, protection of that shape as a trademark once the patent has expired would considerably and permanently reduce the opportunity for other undertakings to use that technical solution. In the system of intellectual property rights developed in the European Union, technical solutions are capable of being granted protection only for a limited period, so that subsequently they may be freely used by all economic operators”.
Seven Towns intends to appeal again and has pointed out that the trademark in question covers only the shape of the Rubik’s Cube, presented as a black & white design, and does not affect any IP rights held in relation to the toy’s distinctive color tile layout.