The judge looked appropriately stern. The lawyers' probing questions and cross-examination reflected the seriousness of the case.
But the focus of the courtroom drama yesterday, prominently placed at an attorney's table, is usually taken more lightly. It's the popular, multicolored mental game called Rubik's Cube.
Ideal Toy Corp., which markets the cube, has filed complaints of unfair trading practices against 111 companies--most of them Asian--that import or distribute what it says are imitation Rubik's Cubes, which for Ideal has meant more than $40 million in sales of more than 10 million cubes.
Ideal has asked the United State's International Trade Commission to halt the importation of the imitation cubes and their sales in U.S. stores. Ideal's complaint centers on claims that the imposters have infringed on its trademark rights and that the importation of the phony cubes has hurt sales. In addition, Ideal contends the phony cubes aren't well made and that customers become confused, buy the poor quality cube and then complain to Ideal about it.
The imposters may subject Ideal to "ridicule and create dissatisfaction and resentment among a substantial portion of the public," the company said in legal documents.
The opposition is expected to show that Ideal never got a copyright or a patent for the cube and that someone besides Ideal began selling the cubes in the United States first after observing them in Hungary, where the game was invented.
But on top of that, Ideal has to prove the imitation cubes hurt their sales.
During his testimony yesterday, Ideal Vice President Stewart Sims said that, for every sale of the imitation cubes, Ideal lost one sale. He also said that, because there weren't enough cubes to go around initially, they were carefully parcelled out to each market.
However, under cross-examination, Sims was asked how the company could lose sales because of the phony cubes if there weren't enough Ideal cubes to go around at first. Sims said that, without the phony cubes, customers would wait a year for the Ideal product.