The European Court of Justice (ECJ) upheld Legos three-dimensional trademark for its figures against a complaint by competitor Best-Lock, which used similar toys.
Under the EC Trade Mark Regulation, a shape cannot validly be registered as a 3D trade mark if its distinctive shape:
- is due to the nature of the product protected by the mark; or
- is necessary for the product to function correctly.
Allowing a particular person or company to register these ‘necessary’ shapes would prevent other businesses or people designing or selling the same type of product without infringing the owner of the registered mark’s intellectual property rights.
In this case, however, the court held these objections were not valid. The nature of the product did not dictate its shape; plastic toy figures of this type could be made in “any form”.
Lego’s minifigures — complete with their legs with holes in, heads with dimples on top, and little yellow semi-circular hands — have become big business for the privately-held Danish toymaker. It has made more than 5bn of them since they were first introduced in the 1970s in the Town, Castle and Space sets.
Lego, which registered the 3D trademark in 2000, welcomed the ruling. “The minifigure has become an iconic representation of what a Lego product is,” said the company, based in the central Danish town of Billund.
Article Published June 29th, 2015