What makes a toy a roaring success? Along with being creative and appealing enough to make it onto thousands upon thousands of letters to Santa, it will also need good patent protection. If you have a toy or other product that you want to make it onto the must-have list, you need to ensure that you are the only source of that product or that yours stands out for some special reason, otherwise your success could be short lived.
One good example of a patent that helped establish a global empire is this Lego patent from 1961, which has helped keep those familiar plastic blocks on the Christmas lists for decades. Of course, the patent has since expired, but the company has sought to ‘evergreen’ its IP rights with trademark registrations such as for the famous Lego figure:
The EU trademark registration of the Lego figure was held in June 2015 by the EU General Court to be validly registered.
By the way, if you’re a parent who has ever had a painful Lego under foot experience, you’ll want to check out these innovative Lego Slippers.
Another toy that has stood the test of time is Play-Doh, patented in 1960. Of course, the patent expired decades ago, and it’s not the only modelling clay for children’s use but owing to the accompanying trademark registrations, the owner Hasbro is the only company allowed to use the name. There are 12 ‘Play-Doh’ trademark registrations currently in force in the UK.
Owner Hasbro has put its trademark registrations to good in cases such as this one against 123 Nährmittel and UK supplier MAPS Toys from 2011.
Again, Hasbro has ‘evergreened’ its IP rights by using a combination of patent and trademark protection, so that by the time the patent expires (20 years after filing) the trademarked name is so highly associated with the product that it is difficult for competitors to enter the marketplace.
These examples serve as a timely reminder of the importance of not only putting IP protection in place but also of maintaining and enforcing it. Without the proper protection you could see innovative efforts and investment wasted, even if your toys climb to the top of the [Christmas] tree.
If you have a toy or other product you’d like to protect, get in touch with our team to discuss your options. You may also be interested in our monthly IP seminar, which we give at the British Library with an ex-Hasbro toy designer, Stefan Knox.