Lets say my company make a new shape of Rubik's Cube (a round ball twisty puzzle) and we call it a "Ball Cube" (my company is called "Puzzles" so its a "Puzzles Ball Cube").

I patent the "Ball Cube" and start selling it...

20 years later the patent expires and lots of other twisty puzzle manufacturers create the "Ball Cube" and call it their own brand so lets just say "Rubik's Ball Cube" and "LanLan Ball Cube" and "China Ball Cube".

Are they free to do so? do i legally own copyright for the "Ball Cube" phrase or the design of the original? Or would I have to file for a trademark?

Can a physical object like this twitsy ball cube be protected under copyright after the aptent expires?


You would want to establish trademark protection on the phrase "Ball Cube": copyright is not generally a good way to protect names or other short phrases. See, for example, Can I copyright the name of my band? from the U. S. Copyright Office, which notes that "names are not protected by copyright law."

Furthermore, you're interested in preventing others from selling a similar object using a similar name, and that's precisely what trademark protection is for.

The ball cube design would potentially be eligible for copyright protection, but you should be aware that this protection would not extend to elements of its design that originated in Rubik's Cube, because your design would be a derivative work.

  • So only the design would be copyright-able? Im guessing the PHYSICAL objet cannot be protected under copyright. After talking to somebody that apparantly "knows law" as soon as the ball cube is invented it is protected by copyright and nobody can then copy it. I do not believe this to be true? – LukeTerzich Mar 22 '18 at 16:20
  • @LukeTerzich copyright is infringed when someone makes a copy. Whether you wish to describe that as protection of the object itself or of its design seems unimportant. If someone copies, for example, a mass-produced sculpture, is it important to know which specific exemplar of that sculpture was the source of the copy? – phoog Mar 22 '18 at 16:24
  • Could i then take the company to court that is reproducing my "Ball Cube"? (even thought i have no trademark or anything). – LukeTerzich Mar 22 '18 at 16:35
  • @LukeTerzich you can take anyone to court for anything in many jurisdictions; whether you'll succeed is another matter. Whether a given object infringes the copyright depends on subjective judgments that would have to be decided by the court. You might also want to consider whether Erno Rubik might sue you for infringing his copyright when you created your derivative work. You might also be interested to know that in 2016, the EUCJ ruled that the shape of Rubik's Cube was not sufficient to grant it trademark protection – phoog Mar 22 '18 at 16:43
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    Copyright law is actually pretty strict about what it covers -- see 17 USC §102. The extent to which this "Ball Cube" could be considered a sculptural work, that's the extent to which copyright law could apply. (No other category even comes close.) Pretty sure it doesn't apply, though, and wouldn't be the right tool even if it did. (It doesn't prohibit independent creation.) You need a design patent, at least in the US. – cHao Mar 23 '18 at 8:25

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