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 Post subject: Seven Towns defending their trademarks?
PostPosted: Tue Apr 24, 2012 2:22 am 
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[Admin: Changed "patents" to "trademarks" in the title]
I received an newsletter from iCubiKstating the following:
iCubiK wrote:
The low quantity of 3x3x3 cubes available on our website today is due to a legal action initiated by Seven Towns Ltd., owner of the Rubik trademark. The company is trying to force specialized cubes resellers worldwide to stop the sales of any cube brand and type, included 2x2x2, 4x4x4, 5x5x5 and most probably other types. This obviously includes any speed cube.

If Seven Towns Ltd wins this battle, the whole speed cubing world will be thrown out of existence and there will be only Rubik brand cubes on the market. ICubiK and all the other cubeshops are fighting this battle to let the cube enthusiast enjoy their favorite hobby now and in the future. we will do our best to have the largest possible selection of items offered on sale, within the terms of this legal battle.
Is this true, does anyone else have more information?

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 Post subject: Re: Seven Towns defending their patents?
PostPosted: Tue Apr 24, 2012 3:44 am 
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As said earlier, I'm not a patent lawyer.

But if I use my common sense, I doubt that this is a patenting issue. Maybe a Brand Protection issue?

As far as I know:
- Rubik's brought their first 3x3x3 cube in the 80's
- this was protected by their original patent (which was probably not a worldwide patent. But e.g. only EU & USA)

- a patent can be held up for about 20 years max. Maybe due to former laws still enacted it's more for the Rubik's patent. (Ref.: e.g. Lego has already for some years lost the rights to its original blocks)

So, in my view it's highly doubtful that the base / initial patent is still in force worldwide.

You can look here and here for IP rights database.

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 Post subject: Re: Seven Towns defending their trademarks?
PostPosted: Tue Apr 24, 2012 4:00 am 
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Indeed, a trademark issue, not patent.

We'll see where it goes. Their past has not been filled with successes.

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 Post subject: Re: Seven Towns defending their trademarks?
PostPosted: Tue Apr 24, 2012 4:24 am 
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Thanks for the correction Dave.

I suppose that this would be connected with the issues people have been having with Ebay recently.

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 Post subject: Re: Seven Towns defending their trademarks?
PostPosted: Wed Apr 25, 2012 11:29 am 
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Seven Towns applied their patent in EU/USA on around 1976, and valided for 20 years. Soon after their patent expired, there are a lot of brands of 3x3 mass produced from China and Taiwan.
Obviously, they hold the trademarks / copyright of their logo design. However, currently, they are claiming the color scheme, red, orange, blue, green, yellow and white, are their copyright, and trying to prosecute the dayan cubes. When you open the pantone sheet, you can find a lot of different color with minor difference. A Red can have many red, deep... light .. etc.
"Rubik's cube" is currently treat as a category/household name, refers to all twisty puzzles. There are actually no more protection on these words, "Rubik's cube".
Anyway, these are kind of business interruption, market monopoly with dirty skills. Yes, they are rich and with strong lawyer team, they can convert a simple thing into a very complex stuffs. Using their money to turn down your business. That is the reason why the small companies afraid of them.
I have raised this topic to discuss several times. But, it seems that none is willing to talk about it. Actually, I wanna know the view of the twistypuzzles forum on these issues.

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Last edited by calvinfan on Sat Apr 28, 2012 11:35 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Seven Towns defending their trademarks?
PostPosted: Wed Apr 25, 2012 12:11 pm 
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I'm no expert, but I would imagine that the rules are quite different across different countries.

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 Post subject: Re: Seven Towns defending their trademarks?
PostPosted: Wed Apr 25, 2012 1:11 pm 
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excalvin wrote:
"Rubik's cube" are currently treat as a categories/household name, refers to all twisty puzzles. There are actually no more protection on this words "Rubik's cube".

I wish someone would tell that to eBay!

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 Post subject: Re: Seven Towns defending their trademarks?
PostPosted: Wed Apr 25, 2012 1:17 pm 
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I'm not sure it's such a big problem. Aren't most non-rubiks brand cubes made in China etc? They don't exactly care for other people's patents anyway! :lol:

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 Post subject: Re: Seven Towns defending their trademarks?
PostPosted: Wed Apr 25, 2012 1:28 pm 
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heiowge wrote:
I'm not sure it's such a big problem. Aren't most non-rubiks brand cubes made in China etc? They don't exactly care for other people's patents anyway! :lol:

Keep in mind, though, most puzzle companies that we all order from are in China. Even the "good" companies.

I'm not sure where to stand on this issue. I feel the usual urge to fight against the big bad companies, but aren't they the companies that drive the market?


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 Post subject: Re: Seven Towns defending their trademarks?
PostPosted: Thu Apr 26, 2012 2:38 am 
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Quirky-Cubes wrote:
I feel the usual urge to fight against the big bad companies, but aren't they the companies that drive the market?


I'm not informed with all Twisty puzzle innovations, so please tell: what innovations brought Seven Towns to twisty puzzles after the Rubik's Cube?

As I learned, one of the most important innovations is the Verdes mechanism. Which is not from Seven Towns, correct?

I can feel with Calvin: patents are only granted for a max. of 20 years to

A) give the original inventor a fair chance (= market protection) to earn his investment back and more, to be able to do new innovations etc. TO MAKE THE WORLD BETTER

B) to give TO THE WORLD after a patent has expired a new 'state of art of technology' that EVERYONE can profit from (this is the reason that patents need to be PUBLISHED. Not 'kept secret')

So, basically the patenting system is a fair game.
Branding and model protecting is another story... I can agree that one cannot call a twisty puzzle 'Rubik' when it's not invented by mr. Rubik or by the 'Rubik manufacturer'.

On the other hand: I doubt that Seven Towns has e.g. rights to the name 'Rubik' in Indonesia. So I could start a company over there called 'Rubik manufacturing Co. Ltd.' and produce Rubik's cubes. :wink:
And maybe not sell those worldwide, but there are enough countries where Seven Towns wouldn't have brand protection (as market protection).

Again, I can see what Calvin is pointing at. Seven Towns is now very whiny while having been given the fair opportunity from their 20-year patent. They ought to know protection should stop somewhere on A PRODUCT / TECHNOLOGY.

So far, my opinion.

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 Post subject: Re: Seven Towns defending their trademarks?
PostPosted: Thu Apr 26, 2012 8:20 am 
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Splinter wrote:
Quirky-Cubes wrote:
I feel the usual urge to fight against the big bad companies, but aren't they the companies that drive the market?


I'm not informed with all Twisty puzzle innovations, so please tell: what innovations brought Seven Towns to twisty puzzles after the Rubik's Cube?

It's true... they haven't innovated at all, really. Most of their "new" products are annoying electronic devices or previously known concepts. But I was referring more to the context of: the reason I started playing with twisty puzzles is because I saw a Rubik's branded product in a store and wanted to buy it. Basically, their marketing is what drew me to twisty puzzles.

I'm not defending Seven Towns in their legal battles. I just think we should consider what they actually have done to advance the market. Perhaps they haven't done anything. However, in my opinion, they have.


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 Post subject: Re: Seven Towns defending their trademarks?
PostPosted: Thu Apr 26, 2012 9:13 am 
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Quirky-Cubes wrote:
Basically, their marketing is what drew me to twisty puzzles.



So, because Ford (with the Model T) made us all petrolheads we should stay buying Fords only? :wink:

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 Post subject: Re: Seven Towns defending their trademarks?
PostPosted: Thu Apr 26, 2012 9:14 pm 
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Did I say that? :? I see nothing at all wrong with buying other brands of Rubik's Cubes, and have done so myself. I just think we should be careful about criticizing companies for their actions, that's all. :wink:

It will be interesting to see how this plays out legally.


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 Post subject: Re: Seven Towns defending their trademarks?
PostPosted: Fri Apr 27, 2012 4:31 am 
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Quirky-Cubes wrote:
I just think we should be careful about criticizing companies for their actions, that's all.


It's no bad, even good to critize companies for their actions. If you want them to reflect on their actions and the image they like to have and the actual image they have in people's opinion.
If you want progress / development: being critical can be a very good thing.

We'll probably applaude for Seven Towns when they really bring new innovations to the market, and we'll probably call 'booh' when they frustrate / block innovations from others.

And me too: I'm quite anxious to learn if Seven Towns can uphold their branding claims in the way they want it to be.
If anyone can inform about the progress in this matter (by checking products at iCubik.com?): keep us updated here.

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 Post subject: Re: Seven Towns defending their trademarks?
PostPosted: Fri Apr 27, 2012 7:44 am 
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Splinter wrote:
It's no bad, even good to critize companies for their actions. If you want them to reflect on their actions and the image they like to have and the actual image they have in people's opinion.
If you want progress / development: being critical can be a very good thing.

You're definitely right about that.
On that note, do you think Seven Towns knows this forum's stand on this? Should we be doing something about it?


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 Post subject: Re: Seven Towns defending their trademarks?
PostPosted: Sat Apr 28, 2012 1:26 am 
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Quirky-Cubes wrote:
On that note, do you think Seven Towns knows this forum's stand on this? Should we be doing something about it?
I wouldn't assume Seven Towns knows about this forum or its feelings on the matter. I suppose with proper market research they might have noticed it, but our community is relatively small and honestly more interested in puzzles other than theirs to mean much to them. Speedcubing.com would be more important, I might believe. Our community might have some greater influence than our numbers alone, but again most of their customers won't know about us.
So from a business perspective I understand why we might be overlooked, and from a business perspective I can understand why that is probably a reasonable choice, even if I might prefer their attention.

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 Post subject: Re: Seven Towns defending their trademarks?
PostPosted: Mon Jun 18, 2012 5:22 am 
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Some details on the referred registrations...
"Enjoy" :-}

---

2x2x2

http://oami.europa.eu/CTMOnline/Request ... =009975681

Trade mark name : Not a word mark
Trade mark No : 009975681
Trade mark basis: CTM
Date of receipt : 18/05/2011

Filing date: 18/05/2011
Date of registration: 18/01/2012
Expiry Date: 18/05/2021


Nice Classification: 28, 35, 41 ( Nice classification)
Trade mark: Individual
Type of mark: 3D
Vienna Classification: 21.1.25, 26.15.9 ( Vienna Classification)
Acquired distinctiveness: No
Applicant’s reference: 800673/SZK

Status of trade mark: Registered

Owner
Name: Seven Towns Limited

---

3x3x3

http://oami.europa.eu/CTMOnline/Request ... =000162784

Trade mark name : Not a word mark
Trade mark No : 000162784
Trade mark basis: CTM
Date of receipt : 01/04/1996

Filing date: 01/04/1996
Date of registration: 06/04/1999
Expiry Date: 01/04/2016
Nice Classification: 28 ( Nice classification)
Trade mark: Individual
Type of mark: 3D
Vienna Classification: 21.1.14, 26.15.9 ( Vienna Classification)
Acquired distinctiveness: No
Applicant’s reference: 291866

Status of trade mark: Registered

Owner
Name: Seven Towns Limited

---

3x3x3

http://oami.europa.eu/CTMOnline/Request ... =000323329

Trade mark name : Not a word mark
Trade mark No : 000323329
Trade mark basis: CTM
Date of receipt : 25/04/1996

Filing date: 25/04/1996
Date of registration: 24/11/1998
Expiry Date: 25/04/2016
Nice Classification: 35, 42 ( Nice classification)
Trade mark: Individual
Type of mark: 3D
Vienna Classification: 21.1.25, 26.4.9, 26.15.9 ( Vienna Classification)
Acquired distinctiveness: No
Applicant’s reference: 292604

Status of trade mark: Registered

Owner
Name: Seven Towns Limited

---

3x3x3

http://oami.europa.eu/CTMOnline/Request ... =005696232

Trade mark name : Not a word mark
Trade mark No : 005696232
Trade mark basis: CTM on which IA is based
Date of receipt : 06/02/2007

Filing date: 06/02/2007
Date of registration: 09/01/2008
Expiry Date: 06/02/2017
Nice Classification: 28 ( Nice classification)
Trade mark: Individual
Type of mark: 3D
Vienna Classification: 21.1.25, 26.15.9 ( Vienna Classification)
Acquired distinctiveness: No
Applicant’s reference: ES/bo070075EU

Status of trade mark: Registered

Owner
Name: Seven Towns Limited

---

5x5x5

http://oami.europa.eu/CTMOnline/Request ... =009976788

Trade mark name : Not a word mark
Trade mark No : 009976788
Trade mark basis: CTM
Date of receipt : 18/05/2011

Filing date: 18/05/2011
Date of registration: 05/03/2012
Expiry Date: 18/05/2021
Nice Classification: 28, 35, 41 ( Nice classification)
Trade mark: Individual
Type of mark: 3D
Vienna Classification: 21.1.25, 26.15.9, 98.4 ( Vienna Classification)
Acquired distinctiveness: No
Applicant’s reference: 800675/SZK

Status of trade mark: Registered

Owner
Name: Seven Towns Limited


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 Post subject: Re: Seven Towns defending their trademarks?
PostPosted: Mon Jun 18, 2012 6:00 am 
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So.... the depiction of a 2x2x2 or 3x3x3 cube (in a certain color scheme) is an actual trade mark.

But not the puzzle in such scheme itself??
(This is probably the core of the conflict: Seven Towns will state that each cube not from their brand in their trademark scheme is inflicting)


I'd say that if one wants to protect a puzzle, a design registration ('design patent') is necessary or (for a new concept) a patent.
Trademarks are for business names and logos....

Maybe it's nice to find out how the 'Coca Cola bottle shape' is protected. Via a trademark? Or a design registration?

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 Post subject: Re: Seven Towns defending their trademarks?
PostPosted: Mon Jun 18, 2012 4:49 pm 
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Some readings for those who interested/bored:

Coca Cola bottle-battle:
http://fortnightlyreview.info/2010/11/0 ... d-8762010/

What are trademarks:
http://www.iusmentis.com/trademarks/crashcourse/whatis/


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 Post subject: Re: Seven Towns defending their trademarks?
PostPosted: Tue Jun 19, 2012 3:13 am 
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Very interesting! Thanks!

Particularly interesting regarding the Seven Towns issue (beware: below based on Australian Trade Mark laws):

"with respect to shape marks, merely adopting a particular shape will not amount to trade mark use. And, in the same way that descriptive terms will not normally be registrable as a trade mark because they will fall foul of the use requirement, functional or utilitarian shapes will not be registrable as trade marks if they do not also serve the secondary purpose of distinguishing those goods from the goods provided by others."

And: "Would a consumer, on seeing a product for the first time, think that the shape of the product is a trade mark, that is, an indicator of origin?"


To be continued I guess.
If anyone knows the final status regarding whether Seven Towns indeed can uphold such claims, I'm very interested. I'm planning myself to talk to a patent lawyer in a few weeks, and protection of a design / shape via a trademark (when possible and effective) would be a very longlasting and cost effective way. If effective, that is.

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 Post subject: Re: Seven Towns defending their trademarks?
PostPosted: Sat Sep 15, 2012 6:55 am 
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excalvin wrote:
...
Obviously, they hold the trademarks / copyright of their logo design. However, currently, they are claiming the color scheme, red, orange, blue, green, yellow and white, are their copyright, and trying to prosecute the dayan cubes. When you open the pantone sheet, you can find a lot of different color with minor difference. A Red can have many red, deep... light .. etc.
...
A friend shares with me a news regarding to the trademarks of color scheme, as below,
8 By letter of 9 August 2007, the examiner informed the applicant that OHIM had corrected the indication of the nature of the mark applied for from ‘colour’ mark to ‘figurative’ mark, as it was apparent from the representation of the mark attached to the application that the mark applied for was a figurative mark in colours and not a colour mark per se. Also in that letter, the examiner informed the applicant that the description of the mark attached to the application did not correspond to the representation of the mark applied for and that OHIM’s intention was therefore to delete the description, unless the applicant wished to submit a new one.
Source : http://oami.europa.eu/ows/rw/resource/d ... 293_en.pdf

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 Post subject: Re: Seven Towns defending their trademarks?
PostPosted: Sat Sep 15, 2012 7:12 am 
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Really interesting, thanks for posting this. So basically, Seven Towns have lost their claim to trademark these colours, and have now lost their appeal against that ruling. In other words, anyone can copy these exact same colours, as long as they don't use the Rubik's Cube brand. To me this seems fair given that they've already had a 20-year monopoly on the design from their patent.

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 Post subject: Re: Seven Towns defending their trademarks?
PostPosted: Sun Sep 16, 2012 5:00 am 
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How about the so-called Rubik's Cube trademark below ?
The protected Rubik's Cube trademark is employed in a three-dimensional twist cube puzzle. The trademark certificate describes the mark as follows: “The mark consists of a black cube having nine color patches on each of its six faces with the color patches on each face being the same and consists of the colors red, white, blue, green, yellow and orange.” An image of the protected Rubik's Cube follows.
Anyone know is this still valid or ever exist ?

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 Post subject: Re: Seven Towns defending their trademarks?
PostPosted: Sun Sep 16, 2012 5:34 am 
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Could you post a link to the reference and I will take a look. It may be that they have other IP rights protecting their design, which may be country specific.

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 Post subject: Re: Seven Towns defending their trademarks?
PostPosted: Sun Sep 16, 2012 8:47 am 
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KelvinS wrote:
Could you post a link to the reference and I will take a look. It may be that they have other IP rights protecting their design, which may be country specific.

I find this so-called Rubik’s Cube trademark from the two law cases as below,
http://www.faqs.org/rulings/rulings2006HQW480158.html
http://www.faqs.org/rulings/rulings2005HQ477375.html

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 Post subject: Re: Seven Towns defending their trademarks?
PostPosted: Sun Sep 16, 2012 10:02 am 
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Both of these links show that 3x3x3 cubes which have different colours to those of Rubik's Cube do NOT infringe on their trademark, which is clear, but they only give an indirect hint that a puzzle with the same colours as Rubik's Cube would infringe on their trademark, so I assume this would be the case. Essentially it seems that their trademark would prevent copying the appearance of Rubik's Cube with the same colours, which is fair enough. So basically, the colours need to be sufficiently different to make the puzzle distinguishable, then there would be no problem.

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 Post subject: Re: Seven Towns defending their trademarks?
PostPosted: Sun Sep 16, 2012 12:18 pm 
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KelvinS wrote:
Both of these links show that 3x3x3 cubes which have different colours to those of Rubik's Cube do NOT infringe on their trademark, which is clear, but they only give an indirect hint that a puzzle with the same colours as Rubik's Cube would infringe on their trademark, so I assume this would be the case. Essentially it seems that their trademark would prevent copying the appearance of Rubik's Cube with the same colours, which is fair enough. So basically, the colours need to be sufficiently different to make the puzzle distinguishable, then there would be no problem.

How can they trademark the appearance of a 3D object, 3x3 cube ?
For example, if someone can trademark the appearance of cup, then all people on the earth have to buy the cups from him. And, only one company/factory can produce the car, table, chair ... etc. Then, the market will be monopolyed by several inventors or producers only.
And, all dayan 3x3, type A, B , C, edison, maru, v-cube 3x3 cubes have infringed the Rubik's trademark ...

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 Post subject: Re: Seven Towns defending their trademarks?
PostPosted: Sun Sep 16, 2012 12:34 pm 
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A 3D object can be trademarked if its appearance is distinctive and does not include any functional elements. For example a specific shape of a cup or bottle could be trademarked, if it is distinctive and does not include any purely functional elements. A Coca Cola bottle is a good example of this. Similarly, Rubik's trademark includes the 3D puzzle with certain colours, but this does not exclude others from making the same functional puzzle with different colours. From your earlier post it looks like they also tried to get a trademark for just the colours apart from the puzzle, but they did not succeed in this respect.

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 Post subject: Re: Seven Towns defending their trademarks?
PostPosted: Sun Sep 16, 2012 4:24 pm 
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KelvinS wrote:
A 3D object can be trademarked if its appearance is distinctive and does not include any functional elements. For example a specific shape of a cup or bottle could be trademarked, if it is distinctive and does not include any purely functional elements. A Coca Cola bottle is a good example of this. Similarly, Rubik's trademark includes the 3D puzzle with certain colours, but this does not exclude others from making the same functional puzzle with different colours. From your earlier post it looks like they also tried to get a trademark for just the colours apart from the puzzle, but they did not succeed in this respect.

Thanks for your explanation.
In this case, all dayan 3x3, type A, B , C, edison, maru, v-cube 3x3 cubes have infringed the Rubik's trademark, no matter they have different machanisms or patented machanism?

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 Post subject: Re: Seven Towns defending their trademarks?
PostPosted: Sun Sep 16, 2012 4:35 pm 
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excalvin wrote:
Thanks for your explanation.
In this case, all dayan 3x3, type A, B , C, edison, maru, v-cube 3x3 cubes have infringed the Rubik's trademark, no matter they have different machanisms or patented machanism?

It is possible, if these cubes use the same colours. However, it depends on what country(ies) we are talking about, and whether Rubik's trademark is still valid and enforceable in those countries. I don't know for sure, but I would guess that Seven Towns have strong trademark rights in virtually every country, given the value of the brand. So on that basis, I think infringement is likely if the colours are the same, regardless of the internal mechanism (trademarks are about brand recognition, and are considered separately from patents and functionality). Whether these trademarks are enforceable is another question, and can only be tested in court.

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 Post subject: Re: Seven Towns defending their trademarks?
PostPosted: Mon Sep 17, 2012 3:18 am 
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KelvinS wrote:
.. So on that basis, I think infringement is likely if the colours are the same, regardless of the internal mechanism (trademarks are about brand recognition, and are considered separately from patents and functionality). ..

As you said, the Rubiks 3x3 cube with color scheme is well-protected by their original trademark. Then, why they urge to apply another trademarks specified on the color scheme again ?

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 Post subject: Re: Seven Towns defending their trademarks?
PostPosted: Mon Sep 17, 2012 3:24 am 
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Perhaps they want to extend their brand into non-cubic puzzles, toys, or other products with the same colour scheme? That would be an obvious business strategy to leverage more value from their brand, a bit like how every movie character ends up as a toy, in books, and on every other form of product.

I would do the same if I owned the Rubik brand, but it seems they messed up their new trademark application so they have nothing except for the name, and a cube with those specific colours.

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