Trademark infringement goes international these days when companies based in the U.S. sue companies based in Europe.
In an interesting international development, U.S.-based Smart Blocks Inc., a maker of construction toys, sued the Danish company Lego A/S, noted as one of Europe’s largest toymakers. Smart Blocks petitioned the federal court for a determination that they were not infringing on Lego trademarks.
Evidently, Smart Blocks, whose headquarters are in San Marcos, Calif., are noted for their talking building blocks that feature six built-in depressible pins. The toys are marketed in seven different colors and have a variety of themes that appeal to children.
Smart Blocks had a shipment worth close to $200,000 blocked by U.S. Customs at the Los Angeles/Long Beach Port in July because there was a trademark issue with Lego. Two months later, the shipment was still on stall and there were no signs it would be released. The company ended up paying thousands of dollars for detention and storage courtesy of U.S. Customs.
“As you can well imagine, this was a significant setback for the company who indicated it had a limited supply of blocks on hand and if they were delayed any further, they may be forced to go out of business,” said David Alden Erikson, who specializes in Los Angeles fashion law, internet law, business litigation, trademark and copyright law.
On the other side of the globe, Lego was saying Smart Blocks packaging is infringing on their trademark. “Smart Blocks says they are not, and there is the rub. Lego actually lost a court challenge asking for European Union trademark rights for the shape of their toy bricks. The question is whether or not they will also lose this case,” Erikson said.
Right now, Smart Blocks is asking the federal court to declare its packaging and products are not infringing on Lego’s trademark and they want Lego to stop saying that they are. In addition, they also want their shipment released and the cancelation of several Lego trademarks because they are generic or invalid.
“Where will this case end up? At this point, that is anyone’s guess, but largely, this case depends on how the court views Smart Blocks products in relation to Lego’s products. On the surface, they sound different and look different, but their inherent design may become the key issue. This is yet another good case to watch to learn about trademark infringement,” Erikson said.
To learn more about David Alden Erikson, Attorney at Law, visit http://www.daviderikson.com.