1. Rubik’s Cube cracked as EU court strips away its iconic trademark over shape

Rubik’s Cube cracked as EU court strips away its iconic trademark over shape

You might not be able to solve Rubik’s cube, but now you can make one. The multicolored puzzle that’s kept small and big hands busy since the 1970s lost the final round in a fight to hold on to a European Union trademark protection.

By: | Published: November 10, 2016 6:47 PM
EU trademark law seeks to prevent a company getting “a monopoly on technical solutions or functional characteristics of a product,” the EU Court of Justice ruled in Luxembourg on Thursday. (Reuters) EU trademark law seeks to prevent a company getting “a monopoly on technical solutions or functional characteristics of a product,” the EU Court of Justice ruled in Luxembourg on Thursday. (Reuters)

You might not be able to solve Rubik’s cube, but now you can make one.

The multicolored puzzle that’s kept small and big hands busy since the 1970s lost the final round in a fight to hold on to a European Union trademark protection.

EU trademark law seeks to prevent a company getting “a monopoly on technical solutions or functional characteristics of a product,” the EU Court of Justice ruled in Luxembourg on Thursday.

The legal battle in Europe has seen almost as many twists and turns as the iconic cube. A lower European court two years ago backed the puzzle’s makers by deciding that the shape’s distinctive surface with black lines and the grid structure on each surface justified the right to a trademark valid across the 28-nation EU.

An adviser to the higher court in a non-binding opinion in May disagreed, saying EU judges should back the argument by German toy maker Simba Toys GmbH that the protection isn’t justified because the cube’s shape performs a purely technical function.

Seven Towns, a U.K. company that manages the intellectual property rights for Rubik’s cube, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

The ruling isn’t really a surprise, said Geert Glas, a lawyer at Allen & Overy LLP in Brussels, who specializes in intellectual property cases.

The EU court “has become very wary of trademarks which it fears could become competitive obstacles for others,” he said.

The EU’s IP office, which will now have to weigh adopting a new decision will be bound by the latest ruling. “I’m afraid it’s game over for the owners of the Rubik’s Cube,” he said.

Hungarian inventor Erno Rubik in 1974 created a solid cube with colored stickers that twisted and turned without falling apart. It was “an object that was not supposed to be possible,” says the official Rubik’s website. Rubik himself took one month to work out the solution. There are “42 quintillion possibilities, but only one correct solution” so that all sides are aligned in an evenly colored manner, according to the website.

“The essential characteristics of the cubic shape in issue must be assessed in the light of the technical function” of the product, the EU court said in Thursday’s ruling.

The case is: C-30/15, Simba Toys v. EUIPO.

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