Lego, one of the biggest toy manufacturers in the world, is well-known for its serious and consistent approach to intellectual property protection.
Thanks to our colleague Masaki Mikami we can acquaint ourselves with Lego’s struggles to receive protection for the following 3D mark in Japan, representing a figure from their famous toy constructors:
The Japan Patent Office refused to register this sign based on absolute grounds – descriptiveness, lack of distinctiveness, technical function, and aesthetic value.
The Office argued that other companies use similar human shape figures as toys. Apart from this, the sign, thanks to its specific arms and legs, allows configuration with other parts of the constructor including caps, hair wigs, clothes, etc. From that perspective, the Office considered that the shape provides technical results and has aesthetic value for consumers.
The court upheld this decision. Lego submitted a study that aimed to prove an acquired distinctiveness of the sign. According to the study, 37,32% of the respondents connect the figure with Lego as a brand. However, the court noted that 37,45% of respondents related the sign with other companies which were enough for the court to consider this evidence as not sufficient in the case at hand.