General Court of the European Union grants design protection to15/04/2021
In a decision rendered on March 24, 2021, the European Genral Court (EGC) overturned a decision of the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) that declared the design registration of the Lego company invalid.
The Lego company had applied for a Community design registration at the EUIPO in 2010, under the description “construction elements of a construction game box”.
In 2016, the company Delta Sport requested the invalidation of the previously registered design, on the grounds that all the features of the appearance of the product concerned are exclusively imposed by the technical function. In fact, under Article 8°1 of Regulation 6/2002, the product was not eligible for protection.
After having initially rejected the request for invalidity, the Third Board of Appeal of the EUIPO granted the request of the company Delta Sport and declared the Community design registered by the company Lego invalid.
Lego appealed this decision of invalidity before the EUAT.
The EU Court began by recalling that Article 8(2) of the above-mentioned Regulation “provides that a Community design shall not confer rights in features of the appearance of a product which must necessarily be reproduced in their exact shape and dimensions in order that the product in which the design is incorporated or to which it is applied may be mechanically connected to another product, be placed in or around another product, or be brought into contact with another product, so that each product may perform its function“.
However, the EGC admits that this provision has an exception, in paragraph 3 of the same article, according to which “mechanical connections of modular products may constitute an important element of the innovative characteristics of modular products and a valuable asset for their marketing, so that they should be eligible for protection. “
In this way, Article 8°3 allows for the protection of Community designs whose purpose is to permit the multiple assembly or connection of interchangeable products within the modular system. In any event, this exception was not applied by the EUIPO, which thus committed an error of law.
Moreover, the EGC also gives indications on the correct interpretation of article 8°1 of the above-mentioned regulation: the Community design can benefit from protection only if all the characteristics of its appearance are exclusively imposed by the technical function of the product concerned by the said design, therefore, if at least one of the characteristics of the appearance of the product is not exclusively imposed by the technical function, then the design can benefit from protection under regulation 6/2002.
In this respect, the EGC notes that the smooth surfaces on the bricks are not limited to a mere “absence of pellets”, but rather a characteristic of the appearance of the product concerned by the design. This feature should have been taken into account by the EUIPO in its decision. In fact, not all the characteristics of the product registered by Lego are imposed by the technical function. Therefore, protection should be granted.
By the IP/IT team of UGGC Law Firm