Rubik’s cube shape found ineligible for trademark protection

Published on: 15th March 2017

RUBIKS101The Court of Justice of the European Union has overturned an earlier decision by the General Court.

The Court of Justice of the European Union has recently issued a final decision in a ten-year dispute surrounding the trademark protection of the Rubik’s Cube, overturning an earlier decision by the General Court and a determination made by the EU Intellectual Property Office that the shape of the Rubik’s Cube was eligible for trademark protection.

In 2006, Simba Toys GmbH filed a request for a declaration of invalidity of the Rubik’s Cube mark, alleging that that it consisted of a shape that is necessary to obtain a technical result (i.e., the rotating capability of the cube) and thus should not be registrable as a trademark. The ECJ concluded that the Rubik’s Cube mark was not registrable because the shape of the mark involves a technical function.

The ECJ decision highlights the relationship between trademark and patent law. Trademarks effectively provide an eternal monopoly and thus are not appropriate for technical solutions or functional characteristics of a product, for example, the rotational capabilities of a Rubik’s Cube. Instead, technical aspects of a product should be protected by patents that comport with the public policy of allowing technical solutions to become freely available after a limited period of time.


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