EDITOR'S COMMENT: Trademark tussles

Billy Langsworthy

By Billy Langsworthy

June 18th 2015 at 12:30PM
UPDATED June 19th 2015 at 12:17PM
EDITOR'S COMMENT: Trademark tussles

This week, Billy Langsworthy touches on LEGO's courtroom victory, the creation of a LeanChair and a TV finale that no-one is talking about.

Welcome to one of the only pages on the Internet not to boast spoilers about who has just snuffed it in Game of Thrones.

I'm sure you've watched it by now, but if not, don't fear, I'm one of the 12 people who has never seen it, so you're in no danger here.

Speaking of bloody battles, LEGO has just emerged unscathed from a courtroom skirmish regarding the shape of its Minifigures.

The Danish toy company first registered its figures as a three dimensional trademark in 2000, but Best-Lock, which has sold figures similar to the LEGO brand since 1998, first attempted to get the trademark revoked in 2012.

The firm argued that the shape of LEGO Minifigures is determined by “the possibility of joining them to other interlocking building blocks for play purposes.”

However, the European Court of Justice rejected the argument earlier this week, meaning LEGO’s figures will continue to be protected. It ruled that the toys’ characteristics, such as holes in the feet and a protrusion on the head, did not obviously have a technical function.

“This is a significant ruling that will provide LEGO with a huge amount of protection," said Dominic Murphy, trade mark attorney at leading intellectual property firm, Withers & Rogers. 

"From a commercial perspective it now means that any rival company is unable to compete with LEGO by producing confusingly similar-shaped figures as they could be sued for infringement. This means LEGO now has unlimited protection for its toy figures as long as it renews its registration regularly. This ruling is unusual in the sense that LEGO will now have considerable enforcement rights across a wide range of categories of product including LEGO kits, computer games and other merchandise.
 
“To register the shape of a design for trade mark protection, the product must be distinctive and not have a purely functional use. The fact that LEGO is an established brand and has been using its famous figures for many years also means they are distinctive because of their prolonged use.”

It's another reminder of the murky world of IP ownership, protection and exploitation, something that will be made clearer to guests at this year's Inventors Workshop all thanks to a talk from Jeremy Morton, partner at Harbottle & Lewis LLP.

So if you're concerned around the legalities around launching a new product into the toy market, don't miss out on that session which promises delegates a basic understanding of what intellectual property rights may protect their toys or games, what to think about in terms of best practice, and what can be done in response to copycats.

In other inventor news (and straying from toys just a wee bit), we here at ToyNews are big fans of Wayne Yeager's latest creation: The LeanChair.

Wary of the health problems associated with sitting around all day, and not a big fan of standing, Yeager has found the solution, and people seem to agree. His campaign is looking for $25,000 and has already made $16,292 in just over a week.

Unfortunately, it's just shipping to US backers at the moment, but check out the video below anyway to see what we're missing out on:

Anyway, just heading back to the Inventors Workshop for a bit, tickets are already selling well for this year's event, with a brilliant blend of new faces and existing friends of Bulletin coming along so far. The early bird rate runs out in July, so be sure to take advantage of it!

If you need more info about it, head to the site here, or feel free to drop me (blangsworthy@nbmedia.com) or Rob (rhutchins@nbmedia.com) an email. 

But, to tie this piece back around in a nice little bow, let's head back to the small screen for the only TV finale I've been interested in this week: Community. It's a brilliant sitcom that you might have stumbed across on SonyEntertainment Television in the UK (watch the first five series on Netflix now. Go on. Quick).

Anywhoo, it ended its sixth season this week with a brilliant parody of board game adverts (see this is relevant, thank you).  Check it out below: