Standing up to free riders

Worldwide success with wooden games - cuboro boss Matthias Etter keeps  free riders at bay with the help of trade mark protection.


Five products currently form the product range of the Bern company, cuboro. The flagship bears the same name as the company. The marble track system can be constructed from beech wood blocks using completely different types of tunnels, bends, crossings and chutes , thereby repeatedly creating new tracks. cuboro boss Matthias Etter regularly launches new building elements that offer even more construction possibilities.


Matthias Etter succeeded in establishing cuboro around the globe as a new construction game. No wonder that other firms with similar products try to profit from this success. The key to resisting these free riders is trade mark protection.


At cuboro this is a matter for the boss, since Matthias Etter founded the company in 1997. “At that time, I tucked a box with my marble track system elements under my arm and went to the IPI in Bern.” A dedicated employee supported the innovator with ground-breaking information.


Today, Matthias Etter only registers the trade mark when he launches a new game and this in all the important export countries for cuboro in Europe, Asia and North America. Usually, infringements against the trade mark rights on the internet are quickly reported by observant customers or discovered by the Bern company when checking the Web.


Matthias Etter reacts immediately to infringements. For instance, when a German dealer advertised another marble track system with a reference to cuboro, he immediately wrote a letter and indicated his rights. With success: the dealer removed the reference.


In another case, Matthias Etter had to engage a trade mark attorney before the opponent, a German games publisher, backed down. However, not only did he let the attorney threaten court proceedings, he also made constructive suggestions - the publisher should not name their game “Alhambra” – this trade mark had been registered by Matthias Etter for games and toys and he had already used it for one of his own games – but “Palace of Alhambra”. The publisher subsequently did just that.


In this particular case, Matthias Etter had to put 4000 francs on the table. But even when protection of intellectual property cannot be had for free, this example illustrates that in the area of consumer goods, even a small company like cuboro can, under the umbrella of trade mark protection, develop into an international niche player.