Why speedcubers and the twisty puzzle community generally dislike Rubik’s branded products
Despite being the inventor of the type of puzzle we use today, Seven Towns’ Rubik’s puzzles and brand aren’t particularly enjoyed by many puzzlers, especially the Rubik’s community. There’s no real hatred towards the brand (although some actions of the Seven Towns company have given some reasons to explain why some people have more of a dislike towards them than others).
Rubik’s sponsor a lot of large national/worldwide competitions such as the bi-annual World Championships. They know full well about the speedcubing community, so they probably know that they aren’t very liked within it. Sponsorship of these competitions is more of a reminder to speedcubers who provided them with the concept of the plastic puzzles they hold in their hands. It’d be like the inventor of the car running around on the motorway with a sign saying “I made this all possible”. Point is, they’re always around and we can’t ignore it.
The raise of other brands
The attitude towards Speedcubing as a whole has left a sour taste in the mouths of many upon hearing the name. This, to an extent, is justified as it all comes from simply defending their own brand. Soon after the Rubik’s Cube took off again in the early 2000’s and more and more speedcubers started to appear, it became annoyingly apparent that the only products available weren’t very good. The idiot-proof structure of an extremely tight, difficult to turn quickly puzzle that was sufficient for the general public was not sufficient for speedcubers. Some Asian companies began to realise this, and began to work on puzzles designed for people who wanted to get faster. The process was slow, and people were using cubes known as the Alpha cube (of which there were several models), until nearly a decade later when DaYan entered the scene and released their speedcubes, which would be used by most if not all until recently, when another company called MoYu have taken the lead. There have been many competitors to Rubik’s targeted at the small community of people who solve the puzzle timed. Rubik’s released their own take on a speedcube in a desperate attempt to claw back the revenue they’d lost long ago, which died almost as soon as it started.
Seven Towns had made it quite clear that they disliked other companies producing knock-off versions of their puzzles since 2012 when they went after DaYan for the sticker scheme used on the puzzles on a copyright charge. The colour scheme was probably the first thing Seven Towns could find that actually infringed any stretched and twisted form of their copyright on the cube that they could use against the companies that had been taking their revenue. Although Seven Towns are perfectly capable (and technically rightly so) of doing this, it was an attempt to directly hinder the progress of an entire hobby solely for money.
The Simba Toys case
A similar case occurred later in 2014, where a legal battle with a small company called Simba Toys ended in the following statement being made by the head of Rubik’s, David Kremer:
“Rubik brand can now legally claim protection for any flat sided Cube with equally spaced orthogonal 3x3x3 grid whatever surface decoration within the toy and game category”
What this means is that it is now possible for Rubik’s to seize and destroy any “illegal” knock-offs (basically any speedcubing brand currently) that enter the UK for resale. Individual purchases are still fine, but there is still some mystery surrounding what happens now with EU based speedcube stores (of which there weren’t many in the first place).
Read more about the Rubik’s Cube patent issues here.
The Rubik’s attitude
Rubik’s stingy attitude towards the improvement of their own puzzles to suit a different audience than just the general public and the all-round quality of their puzzles has turned many people away from their products. Even the knock-offs are cheaper, meaning that in terms of today’s revenue, Rubik’s aren’t actually earning much from the original product or the Rubik’s brand speedcube. This doesn’t mean that their company is any weaker however, because merchandise such as t-shirts, mugs etc. are still booming. It’s unlikely that they will release a speedcube of the quality that competitors can produce because they simply can’t market it at a lower or equal price. As with many products produced from Chinese/Asian companies, they are much cheaper to produce and therefore will always dominate the market.
Oh well, at least we still use the Rubik’s brand clock puzzle (which has since been discontinued). That’s about as far as Seven Towns’ relationship with speedcubers goes.