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Laureyssens v. Idea Grp., Inc. - 964 F.2d 131 (2d Cir. 1992)


The test for unlawful appropriation to prove infringement of another's copyright asks whether substantial similarity as to protectible material exists between the works at issue. 


At issue in this trade dress and copyright infringement case are the similarities between two sets of foam rubber puzzles. The puzzles produced by the parties contain six pieces with a variety of notches cut into each of their four edges. By interlocking the notched edges, the puzzles can be assembled either in a flat form in a rectangular frame or into a three-dimensional hollow cube. The more intrepid puzzler can piece together more challenging multi-puzzle combinations such as a larger cube or other three-dimensional figures including a beam of two or three cubes joined in a line, a cross of five cubes, and a star comprised of pieces from six cube puzzles. One set of puzzles is marketed under the name HAPPY CUBE. The HAPPY CUBE puzzles were designed by Dirk Laureyssens and are produced, distributed, exported from Europe, and marketed in the United States through a number of entities including I Love Love Company, N.V., Creative City Limited, and Extar Corporation. The competing set is marketed under the name SNAFOOZ by Idea Group, Inc., a California corporation ("Idea Group").Idea Group appealed from an order entered pursuant to an opinion of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York granting a preliminary injunction for trade dress infringement under section 43(a) of the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1125(a) (1988), and under the New York common law of unfair competition.


Was there evidence of copying of the trade dress or bad faith on the part of appellant?




The court noted that although there was evidence of intentional imitation, there was no evidence of copying of the trade dress or bad faith on the part of appellant. The court reviewed the theory of secondary meaning in the making and determined that it should not be recognized under § 43(a) of the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C.S. § 1125(a). The court stated that by affording protection before prospective purchasers were likely to associate trade dress with a particular sponsor constrained the freedom to copy and compete. The court held that appellees' copyright extended only to his particular expression of the idea, manifested in the particular shapes of his puzzle pieces. It held that an ordinary observer would conclude that the design change of the appellant's puzzle pieces resulted in a qualitatively different challenge.

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