LEGO's minifigs are more than building bricks, court rules

The shape of LEGO's world-famous minifigures is protected by trademark, a European Union court ruled today, toppling a three-year challenge by one of the toymaker's competitors.

The Danish company registered a "three-dimensional trademark" for the minfigures in 2000, after an earlier technical patent had expired. However, England's Best-Lock, which had prevailed in an earlier patent dispute with LEGO, sought in 2012 to have that trademark revoked, arguing the shape of the toys wasn't an artistic decision but rather determined by the need to join them "to other interlocking building blocks for play purposes."

Had the General Court of the European Union agreed with Best-Lock, the trademark would've been ruled invalid. But, as BBC News reports, the EU court found the design of the LEGO minifigures doesn't have an obvious "technical function."

“The ‘result’ of that shape is simply to confer human traits on those figures," the court said in a statement, much to the pleasure of LEGO.

The toymaker had been dealt a blow in 2010 when the same court revoked its trademark for the red building brick, saying that its shape serves a technical function and that granting protection could impede innovation by other companies.

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