Lego bricks can’t be trademarked, court rules

Danish toy brand Lego has lost its 11-year legal battle to have its famous plastic bricks registered as an exclusive trademark in the European Union.

Lego had argued that the bricks’ three dimensional shape with studs on top is unique and distinctive and therefore eligible for trademark rights.

However, the European Union Court of Justice (ECJ) upheld a 2008 ruling by the General Court, which had upheld trademark agency OHIM’s decision to reject Lego’s application.

OHIM had overturned an earlier decision to grant trademark rights for Lego bricks after objections from Canadian toy company Mega Brands, its biggest competitor.

Lego, Europe’s biggest toy manufacturer, lost the case as the ECJ agreed a product design which produced a “technical result” could not be trademarked.

Distinctive shapes, such as Coca Cola’s glass bottles, are registered as trade marks, but shapes which are exclusively necessary to achieve a technical results are not allowed.

Shireen Peermohamed, partner at Intellectual Property law firm Harbottle & Lewis says the court acted in the public interest.

“The Court appears to have been influenced by the public interest in ensuring that companies cannot use trade mark law to secure a potential monopoly over technical solutions,” he says.

However, she added that the ruling had not closed all legal doors: “Interestingly the court has left open the possibility that Lego could take action under unfair competition laws to object to copies of its bricks.


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