Lego block shape cannot be trademarked in European Union


An important advantage of a trademark over other IP rights is that the period of protection is unlimited by regular renewal. In other words, the trademark owners could monopolise their mark forever. Other parties could not use the registered trademark without a permission from the trademark owner. However, the third party could produce the same product under a different trademark.

To trademark a shape for technical purpose, if allow, will eliminate opponent from the competition. This situation is absolutely not a trademark purpose. A good example to illustrate the technical shape is the Lego block on the right side. If the owner is allowed to trademark this shape, it will prevent any other company from producing and selling the same type of toy. Therefore, EU trademark regulation clearly prohibits the shape of goods which serve a technical purpose from trademark registration. However, in 1999, the owner of this toy successfully registered this shape as a 3D trademark. Later, a third party argued that this shape serves exclusively for a technical purpose and asked for cancellation of the trademark. The court found that this shape clearly is the result of its function to connect with another block. Therefore, the court confirm that this shape cannot be registered as a 3D trademark. 

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