Recently, the well-known game Rummikub was subject of a lawsuit in the Netherlands. This game is, as we read on Wikipedia, invented by Ephraim Hertzano in the thirties. The game became a huge hit in many countries over the world.
The heirs and exclusive distributor Goliath objected to the My Rummy game of the German company Schmidt Spiele who introduced the game My Rummy. The complaint concerned the similarity of the tiles used in both games. These tiles were protected by the heirs as a 3D trademark. As we assume that the copyrights on the game are expired, trademarks are a last way to keep competitors away.
Schmidt Spiele already declared that it wouldn’t use the moon face on the tiles (one of the characteristics of Rummikub). But it went to the court to ask whether the other tiles were infringing. And they weren’t, as the Dutch court ruled. The judge even ruled that 3D marks of the tile with the numbers and the tiles rack should be cancelled! On the other hand, the tile with the moon on it was distinctive.
As the judge did not find any evidence of any infringing other tiles, it ruled that the use by Schmidt could not be prohibited. So, Schmidt should stay away of the characteristic moon (and Joker tiles), but at the end, the game can still be played.
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“Trademark protection gives freedom to do business.”