EGC decision: Design protection for Lego brick remains in force

For several years now, there has been an ongoing conflict between the Danish company Lego and the German toy manufacturer Delta Sport Handelskontor regarding the Lego toy brick pictured above. Lego insists on its property rights for the unique shape of this brick, which makes it difficult for other companies to reproduce it. The brick consists of a flat plate with only one row of studs in the middle.

After many years of litigation with its German competitor, Lego has now won another victory before the General Court of the European Union (EGC) in Luxembourg. The court confirmed the protection of the special building block, which has been protected as a Community design in the European Union (EU) for the Danish toy brick manufacturer Lego since 2010.

In 2019, the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) declared the design protection for this brick invalid at the request of the German company Delta Sport Handelskontor. The EUIPO took the view that all appearance features of the Lego brick were exclusively due to its technical function, whereby this function consisted of facilitating assembly with other bricks in the game and, at the same time, disassembly.

However, the General Court of the European Union (General Court) annulled the EUIPO's decision on Lego's application in 2021 (judgment of 24.03.2021, Case T-515/19).

As a result, the EUIPO made a new decision and rejected Delta Sport Handelskontor's application for a declaration of invalidity on the grounds that this Lego brick was subject to a specific exception under Regulation (EC) No. 6/2002 in EU law, which allows the protection of a Community design if it serves the purpose of enabling the assembly or combination of a plurality of interchangeable products within a modular system.

In 2022, Delta Sport Handelskontor then brought an action before the General Court of the European Union seeking the annulment of this new EUIPO decision. However, this action was dismissed by the General Court on the grounds that the German company was unable to provide evidence that Lego did not meet certain requirements for claiming the above-mentioned exception for the protection of modular systems, namely novelty and individual character.

This judgement may now result in other suppliers no longer being allowed to manufacture their products in the form because of the protectable design of the Lego bricks. However, the latest ruling can still be challenged before the European Court of Justice (ECJ).

Go back