CJEU: The LEGO figure is a Trademark
In a recent verdict, the European Court of Justice (CJEU) determines that LEGO’s well known mini-figures are trademark protected, and that the design of the figures are not merely for technical reasons.
LEGO’s mini-figures have been protected since the 1970s – initially as part of a patent, and later as a 3D trademark. The figures are amongst the most popular toys in the world – especially because they are designed to fit all LEGO products, which gives a wide range of use.
The popularity of the figures means that competitors all over are eager to sell similar products, and many companies have tried to battle LEGO’s trademark rights as to get a piece of the LEGO cake.
One of them is British toy company Best-Lock, who since 2012 have been trying to get LEGO’s 3D trademark revoked. They argue that the shape of LEGO’s tiny men and women is determined by the possibility of joining them to other LEGO products for play purposes, and that LEGO’s trademark is therefore invalid, as trademarks don’t apply to products whose design in necessary to obtain a technical function.
Best-Lock’s argument was initially turned down by the European trademark office, OHIM, but Best-Lock decided to take the case to the CJEU in the hopes of getting a different verdict. This was, however, not the result, as the CJEU sided with OHIM and found LEGO’s trademark to be valid.
The court found that the figures are not merely shaped to obtain a technical function, but that the result of the shape is to confer human traits in the figures, which isn’t a technical function. Best-Lock had thus not proven that the shape of the figures is determined by a technical function, and the CJEU denied Best-Lock’s request to revoke the trademark registration.
With the verdict, LEGO has proof that their figures are more than just building blocks, and as long as they continue to renew their registration, they will have a valid trademark and protection against the competitors. A big win in the land of toys.