TRADE MARK, PATENTS
Record Labels, Artists, Merchandisers, Internet
Kirkbi AG & Lego Canada Inc. -v- Ritvik Holdings Inc.
In this case the Federal Court of Appeal held that the design of a lego block was not protected by Trade Mark in Canada and that functional features of a toy design are properly the subject of patent law and not subject to trade-mark protection. The facts of the case where that the Canadian company Megabloks made a building brick very similar to those produced and distributed for decades by the Danish manufacturer, Lego. In an attempt to halt the sale of the Mega Bloks bricks, Lego brought a passing off action on the basis that the Mega Bloks bricks infringed the (unregistered) trade-mark rights of Lego in the distinguishing guise of the bricks particularly the protruding knobs by which the bricks interlocked. The Court of Appeal upheld the decision of the Federal Court, Trial Division who dismissed Lego’s claim and held that due to the doctrine of functionality, the look of the Lego bricks could not be the subject of a valid trade-mark. Functionality is the proper subject matter of patents, not Trade Marks. The Federal Court of Appeal commented that Lego, through the guise of asserting trade-mark rights, was attempting to extend the monopoly represented by the patent rights it once held. Lego’s last patent on the building bricks expired in 1988.
For the Federal Court of Appeal decision, visit: http://decisions.fct-cf.gc.ca/fct/2003/2003fca297.html