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Dublin: 9 °C Friday 10 July, 2020

What makes a Rubik's Cube a Rubik's Cube?

A trademark court says its all about the lines on the front, apparently.

Image: AP/Press Association Images

ITS NAME ALONE is instantly recognisable and since the 1970s it has been probably the world’s most famous puzzle.

But the Rubik’s Cube has always been more than just a toy. It’s been the subject of mathematical studies on its relevance to group theory as well as one of the world’s foremost tests of intellectual and digital dexterity.

It also appears to have a watertight trademark. So much so that its black lined, grid structure cannot be copied in Europe following a court ruling yesterday.

A UK company called Seven Towns has owned the intellectual property rights to the cube since 1999. But its ownership had been challenged by a Germany company called Simba Toys.

Simply put, the dispute centred on the cube’s flat surface and bold black lines that appear on it. Simba argued that these were purely a technical function which were therefore not entitled to protection.

But a ruling yesterday decided otherwise. The General Court of the European Union found that, “the rotating capability of the vertical and horizontal lattices of the Rubik’s Cube does not result either from the black lines or the grid structure, but from an internal mechanism of the cube which is invisible on its graphic representations”.

It means that a request by Simba to refuse a Europe-wide trademark on the grounds that the shape was purely a technical function was refused.

The court also noted that the trademark didn’t stop other companies making other three dimensional puzzles, just ones that have the same surface layout as the traditional Rubik’s cube.

In legalese:

The Court states that the proprietor’s marketing monopoly is limited to three-dimensional puzzles that have the shape of a cube the surfaces of which bear a grid structure.

Plenty more of this to come so.

rubik's Source: Youtube/Martinrubiksman

Read: Today’s Rubik’s Cube Google Doodle is a productivity vacuum >

Read: Best-sellers: 10 of the greatest products of all time >

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About the author:

Rónán Duffy

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