Rubik's Cube legal puzzle leaves toy maker frustrated

Billy Bambrough
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The famous cube puzzle is often called the most popular toy in history because of how many units have been sold
The famous cube puzzle is often called the most popular toy in history because of how many units have been sold (Source: Getty)

The makers of the world-famous Rubik's Cube have been frustrated by the top European court.

Seven Towers, which manages Rubik's Cube intellectual property rights, have been told the cube's distinctive shape is not sufficient to grant it protection against copycats.

German toy maker Simba Toys brought a challenge against a 1999 European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) trademark in 2006.

Simba has since been dismissed from the EUIPO and a lower EU court before taking its case to the European Union Court of Justice (ECJ) in Brussels.

Read more: ECJ gives KitKat four fingers

ECJ judges found in favour of Simba Toys, agreeing with its argument that the cube's rotating capability should be protected by a patent and not a trademark.

What's the difference between a patent and a trademark?

  • Patents allow inventors to block rivals from making commercial use of their inventions without their approval for a certain period of time.
  • Trademarks give intellectual property owners' an exclusive and perpetual right to their designs, logos, phrases or words as long as they use them.

The EUIPO will now have to issue a new decision based on the judgement.

In a statement the judges said:

In examining whether registration ought to be refused on the ground that shape involved a technical solution, EUIPO and the General Court should also have taken into account non-visible functional elements represented by that shape, such as its rotating capability.

Ahead of the decision Nick Kounoupias, Seven Towers' general adviser to the cube's creator Hungary-born Erno Rubik, said he sees this as an "EU organisation trying to damage the rights of a UK organisation".

In September last year confectionery giant Nestle lost its five-year battle to protect the shape of its KitKat chocolate bar after European judges ruled that it did not merit a trademark.

The Rubik's Cube was invented in 1974 and there have been more than 350m cubes sold worldwide.

Its popularity has endured thanks to so-called speed cubing where competitors race to solve the puzzle. The current the official Rubik's Cube record is 4.904 seconds, which was set by a 14-year-old boy in 2015.

Read more: Forget Hard or Soft – Theresa May is right to back a Clean Brexit

However, earlier this week a robot has just set a new record for the fastest-solved Rubik's Cube, according to its makers.

The Sub1 Reloaded robot took just 0.637 seconds to analyse the toy and make the 21 moves required to solve the cube, beating the previous robot record.

Now watch: Rubik's Cube whizz Collin Burns sets a new record

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