How to build an iconic personality:

By Angela Adrian

What do you do when your entire company is built around one product – one image – one personality? An iconic personality, or perhaps just a well-known image within its own sphere of influence. You have followed all of the rules and laws so that you can protect this property, then the Court rules that, in fact, you do not have such protection.

This has happened to the Rubik’s Cube and to Lego blocks. Their three-dimensional trademarks failed them. For years, they had believed that their registrations protected them. Only to discover that when a copycat arrived on the scene and complained, their intellectual property rights actual meant nothing.

For more than twenty years and in various jurisdictions, LEGO has been trying to protect its LEGO bricks and related product lines using a combination of patent, trademark, and copyright. These enforcement efforts have been an uphill battle. Similarly, Rubik’s Cube has had its enforcement battles meet with similar success or lack thereof. These companies have valuable, but older, technology they are attempting to protect because they are their most enduring assets.

Icondia and the Guernsey Image Rights legislation can help these companies. ‘Images’ are defined as the unique characteristics of the registered personality. They are not limited to images in the conventional sense, but include: Voice, signature, likeness, appearance, silhouette, feature, face, expressions (verbal or facial), gestures, mannerisms, any other distinctive characteristics or personal attribute, any photograph, illustration, image, picture, moving image or electronic or other representation of the registered personality. Special categories of registered image exist, for example where one registered image may consist of a series of discrete images shown together, or perhaps where a registered image comprises one or more elements which on their own would not be unique or distinctive.

All images (both unregistered and registered) enjoy the full protection of the law. Registering an image gives rise to a rebuttable presumption that the image in question is distinctive and of value to the registered personality. Perhaps more importantly, registration simplifies the subsequent licensing of that image to other parties.

 Although the shape of multicolored three-dimensional puzzle Rubik’s Cube is not a trademark as per the European Court of Justice. Under the Guernsey law, it would still be deemed to have a distinct personality which could protect it from being copied. The same could be said for LEGO blocks and associated features. As many companies are realizing that their three-dimensional trademark registrations are unlikely to be upheld in court, they will be looking for a new way to protect their products. Small toy and games companies that rely heavily on one or two iconic products will find this to be a useful and reassuring new form of intellectual property.

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