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4 Dec

Rubik’s Cube – when a trademark is better than a patent.

Rubik’s Cube can be protected as a three-dimensional trademark. That was the decision of the Luxembourg Court from November 25th 2014. It is interesting decision, you will think. This judgement is however a bad information for many polish entrepreneurs. In this case a trademark may even give a stronger protection than the patent.

Rubik's Cube

Rubik’s Cube protected worldwide?

I decided to check, who currently has the right to Rubik’s Cube. The website www.rubiksbrand.com contains information that:

The RUBIK’S CUBE® in its three dimensional form and any graphic or photographic representation of it, in any configuration, coloured or uncoloured, whether or not it carries the RUBIK’S CUBE® name or logo, is protected by intellectual property laws throughout the world.

The concept of intellectual property is very wide. It contains both copyrights and those arising from the registration of trademarks. Trademark protection is always limited territorially and in time.

And as soon as you read Rubik’s Brand Ltd does not protect them at all around the world.

In the next part we can read that:

Rubiks Brand Ltd controls and administers all the international intellectual property rights pertaining to the Rubik’s Cube, the Rubik brand and products marketed under the Rubik brand. The copyright belongs to Ernõ Rubik, the originator of RUBIK’S CUBE® who has given Rubiks Brand Ltd full and exclusive authority to license and administer the rights, and to pursue by whatever legal means necessary any infringement of such rights. Certain trademarks are registered to Seven Towns Ltd on behalf of Rubiks Brand Ltd and Rubiks Brand Ltd has full and exclusive authority to license and administer the rights, and to pursue by whatever legal means necessary any infringement of such rights.

 

Registration in OHIM

This information is inaccurate.

We do not know what elements are covered by copyright protection. There are no trademarks or utility designs indicated. But in order to comment the facts, they must be defined.

Rubik’s Cube is protected for various ways in the Office for the Harmonization in the Internal Market (OHIM). I found out 23 registered trademarks. Additionally, two three-dimensional trademarks are protected under international procedure for a few selected countries.
 
Below I present some of them:

1) Word trademarks

– RUBIK – CTM 004170775
– RUBIK’S – CTM 009408261
– RUBIK’S REVOLUTION – CTM 005477666

2) Figurative trademarks:

– RUBIK’S – CTM 004170858

Rubik's Cube CTM-004170858

RIBIC’S – CTM 009408246

Kostka-Rubika-CTM-009408246

3) a trademark being a combination of colours:
– CTM 005650817

Kostka-Rubika-CTM-005650817

4) Three-dimensional trademarks:
– CTM 000162784

Kostka-Rubika-CTM-000162784

(this is a trademark which Court judgement I mentioned at the beginning of this text)

– CTM 005696232

Kostka-Rubika-CTM-005696232

– CTM 009976135

Kostka-Rubika-CTM-009976135

Rubik’s Cube protected by a patent

Kostka-Rubika-patentMechanism inside the Rubik’s Cube was once protected by numerous patents.

It is a relatively the strongest form of protection. For the owner of rights it has undeniably a fundamental flaw:

is limited in time

Patent protection lasts for a maximum of 20 years.

Also, if anyone achieve the same effect (rotation of the elements of the cube), but by another technical solution, a patent can be legally circumvented.

 

Rubik’s Cube history, is similar to described by me, the history of LEGO block. Its construction was also protected by several patents. When each of them expired, they turned toward the three-dimensional protection of the trademark.

Initially, they managed to register it. After several years at the request of one of the competitors protection was cancelled.

In this context, a judgement from November 25th 2014 In Case T- 450/09 seems surprising. They tried to cancel there indicated above, three-dimensional trademark. The analysis of this judgement will be presented soon. It should however be noted that the Court held that the mark:

  • differs significantly from customs of the sector for three-dimensional puzzles;
  • has sufficient features to consider it as inherently distinctive.

This decision may have serious consequences in the industry of logical blocks.
 

RUBIK’S BRAND enforces its rights

Until recently, typing a phrase “Rubik’s Cube” in the online service Allegro, we could find cubes made by different manufacturers. Today the competitors from industry are forced to use alternative descriptions to mark their products.

So we have logical cubes, logical toys or magical cubes.

Such an action can be understood.

For the determination of games incorporated in the EU a few word trademarks embodying the word “RUBIK”.

Polish entrepreneurs, reluctantly adapted to new circumstances. Unfortunately, it turned out that for them it was only the beginning of the troubles. And about consequences informed the website www.robiks.com:

Rubiks Brand Ltd is determined to stop any unauthorised use of its intellectual property and will pursue infringements of its rights by all legal means at its disposal.

Kostka-Rubika2Such illegal reproductions are usually taken, and destroyed by custom authorities around the world. Such a situation really occurs.

Entrepreneurs who sell logical cubes are in a difficult situation.

They try to defence by voiding of a three-dimensional trademark.

Judgement of the Court of Luxembourg shows that this may, however, prove impossible.

Even if those trademarks will be eventually cancelled, after several years of legal battle, but the entities selling cube may no longer exist.

So we have an example of how the mark turns out better than the patent.

It does not matter what mechanism is inside the cube. If it looks like one of the three-dimensional trademarks, than it will infringe the law.

 

Rubic’s Brand Ltd managed to do something, what was impossible for LEGO.

Product generating huge profits, its appearance was effectively covered by the protection right of a trademark.

And this right, gradually extended every 10 years, can theoretically last forever.

 

Fot. 1 – Paulgi / CC BY-NC-ND
Fot. 2-6 – Head Office OHIM
Fot. 7 – Head Office Espacenet
Fot. 8Helgi Halldórsson / CC BY-SA

Mikołaj Lech

Do you need legal help? Contact with me.
+48 607 416 240
office@lech.bydgoszcz.pl

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