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Arthur S. Obermayer Cube Suit collection

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: 115.4176
The Arthur S. Obermayer Cube Suit collection contains legal files, notes, correspondence, drawings, publicity information, reference, photographs, and other documentation relating to the creation of the Nichols’ Cube, invented and patented by Larry D. Nichols of Moleculon Research Corp. Series II covers the original 1982 patent infringement suit filed by Moleculon against CBS (producers of the Rubik’s Cube), and Series III includes legal papers from three appeals. The bulk of the materials are dated between 1982 and 1987.

The Arthur S. Obermayer Cube Suit collection is arranged into four series, two of which have been further divided into subseries. The materials are housed in 24 archival document boxes and two oversized folders.


  • 1960-1990
  • Majority of material found in 1982-1987



The materials in this collection are primarily in English, though there are instances of Hungarian and Japanese.

Conditions Governing Use

This collection is open for research use by staff of The Strong and by users of its library and archives. Though the donor has not transferred intellectual property rights (including, but not limited to any copyright, trademark, and associated rights therein) to The Strong, he has given permission for The Strong to make copies in all media for museum, educational, and research purposes.


13.5 Linear Feet (24 boxes, 2 oversized folders)


This collection contains legal documents, patents, notes, correspondence, drawings, publicity, and other papers pertaining to the patent infringement suit initiated by Moleculon Research Corp. against Ideal Toy Corp. regarding the popular Rubik’s Cube puzzle. The bulk of these materials are dated between 1982 and 1987.

Historical Note

In 1969, Larry D. Nichols, a scientist at Moleculon Research Corp. in Cambridge, Massachusetts, invented a rotating cube puzzle. Dr. Arthur S. Obermayer, founder and President of Moleculon, saw potential in the 2 × 2 × 2 cube puzzle (later nicknamed “Nichols’ Cube”) and contacted several toy companies (including Ideal Toy Corp.) about licensing and producing the toy. Nichols, after assigning the patent to his employer, applied for a U.S. patent to cover the cube puzzle in 1970, and the U.S. Patent Office granted Moleculon the patent in 1972.

In the meantime, Hungarian architecture professor Ernõ Rubik conceived of a 3 × 3 × 3 rotating cube puzzle in 1974; he received a Hungarian patent on the puzzle one year later. Produced originally in Hungary as the “Magic Cube,” Rubik’s puzzle caught the attention of Ideal in 1979. Ideal bought the distribution rights to the Magic Cube and renamed it the “Rubik’s Cube” after its inventor. The puzzle launched at several international toy fairs in early 1980, sparking the multi-year, worldwide Rubik’s Cube craze. (Ideal later produced official derivatives of the 3 × 3 × 3 Rubik’s Cube, including the 2 × 2 × 2 Pocket Cube and the 4 × 4 × 4 Rubik’s Revenge.)

Moleculon learned about the Rubik’s Cube during the spring of 1981 and contacted Ideal about potential patent infringement regarding the puzzle. After negotiations between Moleculon and Ideal failed, Moleculon examined its legal options, convinced that its U.S. patent on Nichols’ Cube had been breached by the Rubik’s Cube. In May 1982, Moleculon filed a complaint for patent infringement against Ideal Toy Corp. in the Federal District Court in Wilmington, Delaware. Later that same year, CBS, Inc. acquired Ideal and inherited the Moleculon lawsuit.

The original patent infringement suit—referenced by Obermayer as the “Cube Suit” —transpired over the course of two years. In October 1984, the Federal District Court judge ruled a $60 million settlement in favor of Moleculon. CBS filed its first appeal in 1985; the Court of Appeals affirmed that the 2 × 2 × 2 Pocket Cube infringed upon Nichols’ patent, but overturned the judgment on the 3 × 3 × 3 Rubik’s Cube. CBS (unsuccessfully) petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court for a writ of certiorari in 1986. Moleculon filed a final appeal against CBS in 1987, again claiming that the 3 × 3 × 3 Rubik’s Cube also infringed upon its cube patent, but the court did not agree.

System of Arrangement

Series I: Development, 1969-1984

Series II: 1982 patent infringement suit, 1960-1989

Subseries A: Legal documents and correspondence
Subseries B: Preparation and reference
Subseries C: Publicity

Series III: Appeals, 1985-1989

Subseries A: 1985 appeal
Subseries B: 1986 appeal
Subseries C: 1987 appeal

Series IV: Product knock-off suits, 1987-1990

Custodial History

The Arthur S. Obermayer Cube Suit collection was donated to The Strong in December 2015 as a gift from Arthur S. Obermayer, the founder and President of Moleculon Research Corp. The papers were accessioned by The Strong under Object ID 115.4176 and were received from Obermayer in ten boxes, which included one box of game/puzzle prototypes and production versions.

Related Materials

Arthur S. Obermayer donated to The Strong more than 20 three-dimensional geometric puzzles, which were used to demonstrate mechanisms and puzzle construction during litigation. The Brian Sutton-Smith Library and Archives of Play also received 10 books about Rubik’s Cube (a 2014 inductee into the National Toy Hall of Fame) and cube puzzles from Obermayer.

Processed by

Julia Novakovic, August-September 2016
Finding Aid to the Arthur S. Obermayer Cube Suit Collection, 1960-1990
Julia Novakovic
1 September 2016
Description rules

Repository Details

Part of the Brian Sutton-Smith Library and Archives of Play at The Strong Repository

The Strong
One Manhattan Square
Rochester NY 14607 USA
585.423.1886 (Fax)