Keywords: CJEU, Community Trademark, Grounds for Invalidity, Lego

On 16 June 2015, the General Court of the European Union (GC) has dismissed an application for a declaration of invalidity in respect of a three-dimensional Community Trademark for the shape of a LEGO figure. Rival company Best-Lock, which offers LEGO-compatible building blocks, had argued, among other things, that the shape of a LEGO figure resulted from the nature of the goods themselves and that the shape was further necessary to obtain a technical result. Both constitute absolute grounds for invalidity under Article 52(1)(a) and Article 7(1)(e)(i), (e)(ii) of the Community Trademark Regulation (207/2009).

In respect of the complaint that the shape of a LEGO figure is determined by the nature of the goods themselves, the General Court rejected that complaint as inadmissible in so far as Best-Lock did not provide any reasoning to show that the previous finding of the OHIM in that regard had in fact been wrong.

Regarding the complaint that the trademark consists exclusively of a shape necessary to obtain a technical result, the Court held that the characteristics of the shape of the figures in question were not necessary to obtain a technical result. Previously, in 2010 (C-48/09 P), the CJEU had ruled that all essential features of the shape of a LEGO Brick were determined by their intended technical effect, which is, that the bricks can be connected to one another. As such, a LEGO brick had not been capable of being registered as a Community trade mark. In the present case, however, the GC held that no technical result seems to be entailed by the shape of the essential characteristics of LEGO figures (heads, bodies, arms and legs), as those did not allow the figures to be joined to interlocking building blocks. Even if some elements of the shape could be regarded as functional, the overall purpose of the shape was simply to confer human traits on the figures.

Originally published June 17, 2015

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