Design protection for the game block remains

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The Court of Justice of the European Union (EuG) has rejected a lawsuit with the judgment dated January 24, 2024 – T-537/22.

The design of a well-known building block remains legally protected. This was decided by the European Union Court (EuG) with a verdict from January 24, 2024 (Case No.: T-537/22).

The design of a product can provide a high level of recognition for consumers. Therefore, the protection of the design or the registered design is of great value to companies, as the commercial law firm MTR Legal Attorneys advises.

Characteristics defining a registered design

Defining a registered design is the appearance of a product or part of it, which is especially characterized by the features of lines, contours, colors, shape, surface structure, and/or materials of the product itself and/or its decoration. A manufacturer of building blocks had therefore protected the design of a block as a registered design within the European Union since 2010.

However, this protection is not undisputed. A competitor achieved in 2019 that the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) declared the design protection null and void. As a justification, the EUIPO stated that all features of the block were dictated solely by its technical function. However, a technical function cannot be protected as a registered design.

EUIPO: Modular systems can be protected

Against this decision, the manufacturer of the building block successfully filed a lawsuit, and in 2021 the EuG overturned the EUIPO’s decision. The EUIPO then decided that the design protection for the building block continues to exist. In this decision, the office referred to a specific exception in Union law that allows the protection of modular systems. The building block is part of such a modular system and therefore deserves protection.

The competitor company challenged this decision and failed at the EuG.

EuG confirms EUIPO’s assessment

The court decided that the design of the block can continue to be protected. It justified this by stating that a registered design can only be declared null and void if all its features are excluded from protection. Therefore, the form would have to follow the function completely. However, this was not the case here. For the connection in the modular system, some but not all features of the block were necessary. For example, the smooth surface of the block is irrelevant for the connection with other blocks.

Furthermore, the court confirmed EUIPO’s view that the building block is part of a modular system and therefore deserves protection. Certain conditions such as novelty and individual character must be met for the protection of modular systems. However, the competitor company, which had the burden of proof, did not provide evidence that these conditions were not met.


MTR Legal Attorneys knows the importance of protecting intellectual property and provides advice in intellectual property law.

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