The European Court of Justice (ECJ) held yesterday that the distinctive character of a Rubik’s Cube is its rotating mechanism. It therefore falls under the prohibition in the Community Trademarks Regulation forbidding technical trademarks. The ECJ had reached a similar decision in the Lego bricks case in 2010.

Although 3D objects can be trademarked, if the object has a technical function or feature that renders it distinctive from other similar objects, then it can no longer be trademarked and an application to register it as a patent should be considered instead.

As a trademark can be renewed indefinitely (unlike a patent which lasts for 20 years only), the prohibition on registering technical features of devices and shapes was introduced to avoid trademark monopolies on technical solutions. However, protection is still possible by registering inventions as patents.

When taking steps to protect your intellectual property, one should consider what type of protection is appropriate and available.