• Rubik's Cube Knockoff Deemed Terror Toy
  • November 16, 2004
  • Law Firm: Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, LLP - Los Angeles Office
  • As far as she knows, Pufferbelly Toys owner Stephanie Cox hasn't been passing any state secrets to the governments in the Axis of Evil, or violating obscure clauses in the Patriot Act.

    So she was taken aback by a September phone call from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to her store just north of Portland, Oregon. "I was shaking in my shoes," Cox told The Oregonian. "My first thought was the government can shut your business down on a whim, in my opinion. If I'm closed even for a day that would cause undue stress."

    Two agents came to the store, and the lead agent asked Cox whether she carried a toy called the Magic Cube, which he said was an illegal copy of the Rubik's Cube, one of the most popular toys of all time. He told her to take the offending toy off her shelves, and watched to make sure she complied.

    After the agents left, Cox called the manufacturer of the Magic Cube, the Auburn, Washington-based Toysmith Group. She was told the Rubik's Cube patent had expired, and the Magic Cube did not infringe on its trademark.

    Virginia Kice, a spokeswoman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, a division of the Department of Homeland Security, told the Associated Press that agents went to Pufferbelly based on a trademark infringement complaint filed in the agency's intellectual property rights center in Washington, D.C. "One of the things that our agency's responsible for doing is protecting the integrity of the economy and our nation's financial systems and obviously trademark infringement does have significant economic implications," she said.

    Six weeks after her brush with Homeland Security, Cox told The Oregonian she is still puzzled by the experience.

    "Aren't there any terrorists out there?" she said.

    Significance: Apparently, the anti-terror business is slow at the Department of Homeland Security.