(CN) – Lego can’t trademark a red toy building block, Europe’s high court ruled, because the pieces serve a “technical function” that can foster innovation.
The European Union’s trademark office originally allowed Denmark-based Lego to register its building block in 1996, but later revoked the trademark after Mega Brands, which also produces toy building blocks, challenged the registration.
Under European law, products that offer “technical solutions” can be copyrighted for only a limited time.
In 2008, the General Court of the European Union ruled that any mark consisting entirely of a shape intended to produce a technical result also fell outside of the realm of protectability.
The Luxembourg-based Court of Justice upheld this decision. If such marks were protectable, the court ruled, it could affect the ability of other companies to come up with new technical solutions.
In dismissing the case, the high court noted that although Lego could not defend its block under trademark law, it might fare better with laws on unfair competition.