Canadian toymaker Mega Brands Inc. is taking another swing at giant rival Lego AS in a long-running legal battle over the protection of trademark rights for the shape of interlocking bricks in toy construction sets.
Montreal-based Mega Brands says it has filed an action against Lego Juris A/S and Lego Group in U.S. District Court of the Central District of California, seeking to invalidate Lego’s 1999 functional U.S. trademark.
Mega Brands said in a news release it is also seeking unspecified “other remedies.”
The court action comes after Mega Brands was advised by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency that the latter “intends to restrict the importation of certain of its products which have been sold in the U.S. for over 20 years,” the company said in a statement issued late Friday night.
The toy maker said it will seek a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction in order to ensure that its products sold in the United States are not affected by Lego’s 1999 trademark.
Lego’s patents expired more than 20 years ago, with courts in several countries striking down its claims that its iconic toy bricks are protected and that no one can make blocks using the same eight-knob pattern, Mega Brands said.
Mega Brands said it is challenging Lego’s attempts to use trademark laws in the United States to protects its mini-bricks from competition.
“Courts around the world, including the United States, have ruled against its attempts to use trademark law for functional elements,” Mega Brands said.
Mega Brands, Lego and U.S. Customs officials were not available to comment Sunday.
Privately held Lego – based in the town of Billund, Denmark – has been fighting off a commercial challenge from Mega Brands in the building blocks sector for years.
It lost its patent protection on the toy bricks in 1978 but has continued to assert its legal rights using trademark and other laws.
Its claims have been dismissed in several lower courts as well as the highest courts of Canada, France, Germany, Spain, Italy and the Netherlands.
In September of 2010, the European Court of Justice said Lego cannot use trademarks to protect the shape of its colorful plastic building blocks.
The two rows of studs on the topside of the bricks serve a “technical function” and thus cannot be trademarked, the court ruled.