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EU court rejects registration of Lego red brick trademark

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) [official website] on Tuesday denied an appeal [judgment text] by the Danish company Lego [corporate website] to restore its EU trademark for its interlocking toy bricks. The court held that the company's red eight-stud brick is not registrable as a community trademark and "is a sign consisting exclusively of the shape of goods necessary to obtain a technical result." Lego filed the appeal after the European Court of First Instance [official website] upheld [JURIST report] 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 [text]. The court found 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 that could achieve the same function. The ruling falls in line with a statement issued earlier this year by Advocate General Paolo Mengozzi, who said that all of Lego's claims are unfounded [Europolitics report] and the appeal should be dismissed.

The decision brought to rest a 14-year 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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