LEGO Research Paper: Part 3

More legal stuff! You're still reading, so that is a good sign.

Enjoy Part 3!

A History of LEGO Lawsuits

            When other companies began to produce their own brick based products, it cut into The LEGO Group’s profits.  As with any monopoly, LEGO wanted to protect their market share and keep their profits. They do so by finding products and designs they believe are infringing on their designs.  In 2005, they filed a lawsuit against the largest of their rivals, Mega Construx, who were then known as Mega Bloks. The LEGO Group claimed that Mega Bloks was violating their pending Canadian trademark for the LEGO brick design. Canadian law allow you to protect an unregistered or pending trademark, and this allowed LEGO to protect their expired patent because they were in the process of trademarking it. The Canadian Supreme Court sided with Mega Bloks, because the design of the brick was purely for functional purposes. The trademark laws in Canada are "not intended to prevent the competitive use of utilitarian features of products." When The LEGO Group’s patents expired, the design fell into public domain. LEGO’s name, products and advertising are still protected, but the monopoly that LEGO had in the brick-building toys industry in Canada has ended
            Not all of The LEGO Group’s lawsuits are unsuccessful. In 2011, they filed a lawsuit against another rival, the Chinese company BanBao. In this legal battle, LEGO was not defending its brick patent, but rather the specific design of the LEGO sets. BanBao had been creating sets that appeared to be almost direct copies of what LEGO had produced.  The Dutch court sided with LEGO in this instance, since the products were too similar to The LEGO Group’s products. This case is incredibly similar to the one LEGO has filed against another Chinese company. The LEGO Group is defending the designs of their sets from one of the largest Chinese “clone-brands,” Lepin. The company has been copying the majority of LEGO sets and selling them for significantly less. These two cases revolve around copyright laws. The companies had been copying the specific designs of LEGO sets, and toy designs fall under copyright law as well. Copies are not just specific to the set design, as some of the individual set components are subject to protection as well.

            The LEGO Group has spent many years and massive sums of money in protecting its brand. In 2011, LEGO was sued by the British company Best-Lock for restricting the flow of their products and using U.S. law to prevent Best-Lock’s products from entering the U.S. The LEGO Group claimed that the products were infringing on their Minifigure design. Best-Lock claimed that the copyrighting of the Minifigure was merely a technical design and was not applicable to copyright. At around this time, LEGO had begun the process of trademarking the Minifigure, which also appeared as an issue in the case. Best-Lock used a similar argument to defend their copies of the Minifigure, they said it was a technical design and the patent for it expired. The court decided in LEGO’s favor. The design of the Minifigure was not for a practical, utilitarian purpose. The design was meant to represent a human form and therefore the design was applicable for trademark. The copying of the Minifigure has been found to be an illegal practice.