Twists and Turns on the Rubik’s Cube Trade mark

28 Nov 2016

The community trade mark representing the shape of the multi-coloured three-dimensional Rubik’s cube has been determined to be invalid, with the European Court of Justice (ECJ) stating in it’s decision made on 10 November 2016 that  the shape of the cube alone was not enough to protect it from being copied. The decision was a result of Simba Toys Gmbh & Co KG challenging the EU trade mark back in 2006, with the original trade mark having been filed in April 1996 in Class 28: ‘Three Dimensional Puzzles’.

Simba Toys claimed that the community trade mark protecting the 3D shape of the Rubik’s cube infringed Article 7(1) (e)(ii) of Regulation 40/94, which sets out a number of grounds for refusal of a trade mark application, including:

 “Signs which consist exclusively of the shape of goods which are necessary to obtain a technical result”.

The ECJ found that the grid structure on the Rubik’s cube did not perform a technical function on its own, as the purpose behind the shape of the Rubik’s cube was to obtain the technical result intended.  

Although the ECJ’s decision has lessened the protection available to the Rubik’s cube, which is one of the highest selling toys of all time, the Rubik’s cube does still have a number of other intellectual property rights to rely on, including other trade mark, copyright, passing off and unfair competition protection. Additionally, it is possible for the 3D shape to be protected under patent law, although, unlike trade marks, patents can only protect inventions for a limited amount of time.

The main concern with the ECJ’s decision is the ramifications it may have on companies, especially those in the field of toys and games, who want to create strong innovative brands within the EU. This is not the first case of its kind, KitKat failed to convince the ECJ that its four-fingered version of the chocolate bar should be protected by a trade mark in 2015 and Lego faced a similar decision in 2010. These decisions all indicate that in the future companies trying to protect new products and those who are reviewing existing 3D trade mark registrations may face difficulties registering and protecting the shape of their products.

Further reading

DMH Stallard heads to the Olympics in support of St Catherine’s Hospice!

Blog, News & PR
Our staff are at it again! We're raising money for St Catherine's Hospice by walking, running, cycling and everything in between to cover 13,262km in 16 weeks
Read more Read

DMH Stallard advises Optiva Securities as broker to Tirupati Graphite in £10 million equity fundraising

News & PR
Nick Williams advised Optiva Securities Limited on its role as broker in arranging an oversubscribed £10 million placing for Tirupati Graphite plc
Read more Read

New Debt Respite Scheme provides “breathing space” to some debtors

Blog, Legal Updates
New Regulations require individuals with problem debt to seek advice from a dedicated adviser in order to apply for a moratorium
Read more Read

Keep the cash flowing

Recent stats suggest cash flow has all but dried up for many businesses; Kelly Mills reflects on the multi-faceted management that might help
Read more Read
  • Brighton Office

    1 Jubilee Street


    East Sussex

    BN1 1GE

  • Gatwick Office

    Griffin House

    135 High Street


    West Sussex

    RH10 1DQ

  • Guildford Office

    Wonersh House

    The Guildway

    Old Portsmouth Road



    GU3 1LR

  • Horsham Office

    Ridgeland House

    15 Carfax


    West Sussex

    RH12 1DY

  • London Office

    6 New Street Square

    New Fetter Lane


    EC4A 3BF

  • Get in touch