A competitor solves a Rubik's Cube at a competition in Prague, Czech Republic. Picture: REUTERS/DAVID W CERNY
A competitor solves a Rubik's Cube at a competition in Prague, Czech Republic. Picture: REUTERS/DAVID W CERNY

Brussels — The owner of the Rubik’s Cube brand lost a bid to regain the EU trademark rights to the iconic puzzle’s shape.

The EU general court in Luxembourg ruled on Thursday that the EU’s intellectual property office was right to cancel trademark protection for the multi-coloured cube that’s kept small and big hands busy since the 1970s.

“Given that the essential characteristics of that shape are necessary to obtain the technical result consisting of the rotating capability of that product, that shape could not be registered as an EU trademark,” the court said.

In a legal battle in Europe that’s seen almost as many twists and turns as the famous cube, German toy maker Simba Toys has been fighting since 2006 against granting it EU trademark protection. A lower EU court ruled in favour of the cube’s rights in 2014, but two years later the bloc’s top court said EU trademark law prevents a company from getting “a monopoly on technical solutions or functional characteristics of a product”.

The office in charge of giving EU-wide trademark rights annulled the protection for the cube’s shape in 2017, in line with the top court’s guidance. Rubik’s Brand appealed that decision, moving the case back again to the EU courts. Thursday’s decision can be appealed one more time.

In 1974, Hungarian inventor Erno Rubik created a solid cube with coloured stickers that twisted and turned without falling apart. It was “an object that was not supposed to be possible”, says the official Rubik’s Cube website.

Rubik himself took one month to work out the solution. According to the website, there are “42-quintillion possibilities, but only one correct solution” so that all sides are aligned in an evenly coloured manner. 

Bloomberg