Yes, toys and games can be patented, did you know that? See Patenting Board Games 101. Indeed, sometimes toys and games can be quite lucrative, and when you have the rights all to yourself that certainly offers marketing advantages. You might even find that when someone copies you there are legal remedies you can pursue.
For example, Laser Pegs®, maker of the toy industry’s first lighted toy construction set, recently announced it is suing Lite Brix for unfair competition and willful patent and trade dress infringement. The complaint was filed in October 2012 by the three-year-old toy brand.
The filed complaint suggests that at a toy fair in 2011, Capriola was approached by Larry Rosen of Larose Industries LLC with an interest in investing in Laser Pegs. After a few arranged meetings to discuss the possible substantial investment, Rosen broke off ties with Capriola. He was later found to have secretly created and marketed Lite Brix.
The complaint explains that the creative conception behind Laser Pegs® comes from Jon Capriola. Capriola wanted to develop a toy that would be enjoyed by both young boys and girls, while at the same time fostering imagination, advancing learning and helping in the fundamentals of geometry and science. Based on these goals the ultimate invention took the form of a three-dimensional building block set, where each building block would include a non-opaque body with a light sources sufficient to emanate light therefrom.
Starting in 2009, Capriola began selling and offering Laser Pegs® for sale to the public, initially by and through the website www.LaserPegs.com. He also offered the toy product to independent toy stores throughout the country. According to the complaint, “Laser Pegs® quickly became sought after.” As early as 2010, Laser Pegs® started receiving awards and was featured on multiple national broadcasts, including on NBC’s TODAY show. The video below shows Laser Pegs® being demonstrated on ABC World News NOW.
The patent in question in this litigation is United States Patent No. 7,731,558, which was filed on August 15, 2007, and issued on June 8, 2010. The patented device relates to an illuminated building block that mimics the look of a laser. The building block includes a non-opaque body comprising at least two mechanical connectors. These two electrically independent conductors each traverse the body from one connector to the other connector. At least one LED is electrically connected to the electrical conductors. With the two building blocks mechanically connected, a power source may be applied to one of the connectors of one of the building blocks to illuminate the LED. In the particularly preferred version of the invention, the body of the building block is transparent and is capable of transmitting light from a colored LED to a connected block, thus mimicking the look of a laser. The invention also comprises a set of building blocks that permits light from an LED to pass from one connected block to an adjacent connected block.
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The two broadest claims in the ‘558 patent appear to be claims 1 and 26, both of which are independent claims. The patent also includes independent claims 12 and 18, but those claims seem to cover a more narrow articulation of the invention. Claims 1 and 26 are as follows:
1. A building block comprising: a non-opaque body comprising at least two mechanical connectors, at least one of the connectors of the body comprising a male connector and at least one of the other connectors of the body comprising a female connector; two electrical conductors each traversing the body from each connector to each other connector; at least one LED within the body and electrically connected across the two conductors; each connector having a housing coupled to the two conductors so as to close a circuit between the conductors and illuminate the LED upon application of a power source to the connector and also transmit power to each other connector of the body along the two conductors; and whereby with at least two of the building blocks mechanically connected, a power source applied to any one of the connectors of either of the building blocks illuminates each LED.
* * * * * * *
26. An illuminated building block comprising: a non-opaque body comprising two mechanical connectors, one of the connectors comprising a male connector and the other connector comprising a female connector; two electrical conductors traversing the body from each connector to each other connector with each connector having a housing coupled to the two conductors so as to close a circuit between the conductors and illuminate the LED upon application of a power source to the connector and also transmit power to each other connector of the body along the two conductors, with all of connectors electrically coupled together within the body; an LED fitted within the body and electrically connected to the two conductors; and wherein a power source applied to any one connector illuminates the LED.
In addition to alleging willful patent infringement, the complaint filed also asserts various trademark infringement theories and alleges unfair business practices.
The complaint explains that the plaintiff is seeking a permanent injunction to stop ongoing infringement, as well as damages adequate to compensate the damages suffered as the result of the alleged infringement. The plaintiff is also asking for punitive damages, which undoubtedly is in relation to the allegations of willful infringement, and is similarly asking for reasonable attorneys fees, costs and expenses.
Perhaps of interest is the fact that it does not appear as if the plaintiff is seeking a preliminary injunction. It is difficult to know exactly why no preliminary injunction was requested in the complaint. There are a variety of reasons why that may be the case, not the least of which could be the inability to post a bond in the event that a preliminary injunction would be granted.