Cherished toys hold a special place in our hearts, filled with good memories and nostalgia. As kids, we pay no attention to the legal battles our favorite toy companies are constantly fighting to protect the intellectual property we love so much. Yet, when you Google “Hasbro intellectual property lawsuit” you’ll see hundreds of search results with headlines like “Hasbro’s Right of Ownership to the Game of Life’s IP Affirmed” and “Hasbro Wins Lawsuit Over Play-Doh Trademark.”
Let’s look at the IP behind five iconic toys we all know and love, many of which are currently owned or licensed by Hasbro.
An early version of Monopoly, called the Landlord’s Game, was patented by Lizzy Magie in 1903. This game was the inspiration for Charles Darrow’s 1935 patent for a “board game apparatus” that was sold to the Parker Brothers in the midst of the Great Depression. The Parker Brothers logo is likely what you’re used to seeing on the Monopoly box.
After a series of mergers and acquisitions, Hasbro ended up with the rights to the Parker Brothers’ library—including Monopoly, Clue, Risk, and Sorry! Now, scroll to the bottom of https://monopoly.hasbro.com/ and you’ll see this warning: “The MONOPOLY name and logo, the distinctive design of the game board, the four corner squares, the MR. MONOPOLY name and character, as well as each of the distinctive elements of board and playing pieces are trademarks of Hasbro, Inc.”
The original 3×3 Rubik’s Cube was invented by Ernő Rubik, who patented his “spatial logical toy” in the US in 1980. Now, this patent is expired and puzzle companies around the world, especially in China, are building upon the technology. Today’s cubes offer “smoother turning and quality corner cutting,” ideal for speedcubing. Rubik himself likely never considered this use; speed was not a strength of the original invention.
Of course, only the Rubik’s brand can use the name associated with the original cube. The company is constantly finding ways to protect its IP, including a trademark of the cube’s 3D shape. This trademark, however, was invalidated by the European Union Court of Justice (ECJ).
An early version of Battleship was submitted to the USPTO for patent protection in 1933 with an application titled simply “Game board” under the War games classification. The patent was granted in 1935. However, the game as we know it wasn’t produced commercially by Milton Bradley until 1967.
Little Tikes’ Cozy Coupe could be found in every family’s driveway in the 1980s and 90s. The company protected its product with a series of design patents for a “toy automobile” and “toy vehicle,” first in 1982 and then in 1996. The Little Tikes Company also holds a trademark on the “Cozy Coupe” wordmark, which has been in use since 1979!
In 1970, the Lite Brite (a trademark registered to Hasbro) was patented by Burton Meyer of Marvin Glass & Associates. The firm—behind iconic games like Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots, Ants in the Pants, and Operation—licensed the technology to Hasbro, which began selling the product in 1967.
You might not think Lite Brite technology has changed much over the last half a century, but Hasbro was granted a patent for an “improved light transmitting peg” in 2000. This improvement, according to the application, offers “added play value and added creative input.”