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Europe court rejects Lego trademark appeal

[JURIST] The European Court of First Instance [official website; JURIST news archive] on Wednesday denied an appeal by the Danish company Lego [corporate website] to restore its EU trademark for its interlocking toy bricks. The decision [opinion text] upheld an Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market (OHIM) [official website] ruling that the distinctive nature of the product is its functional shape, and cannot be trademarked under EC 40/94. The court contended that the availability of the trademark for a technical solution would constitute a monopoly. Lego argued that its bricks were not a monopoly, citing the availability of other shapes which could achieve the same function. The court disagreed, writing:

That aim [of the public interest] does not therefore relate solely to the technical solution incorporated in such a shape, but to the shape and its essential characteristics themselves. Since the shape as such must be capable of being freely used, the distinction advocated by the applicant cannot be accepted.
Canadian Press has more.

The decision was the latest in a decade-long battle between Lego and Canadian-based competitor Mega Brands [corporate website], which manufactures a similar product. Lego initially obtained an OHIM trademark in 1999, which Mega Brands successfully had canceled in 2004. Wednesday’s decision was an appeal of OHIM’s final ruling in 2006. The dispute between the companies has been litigated in many jurisdictions. In 2005, the Supreme Court of Canada [official website] ruled that Mega Brands had a right to sell its product [judgment text].

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