Once Again, Lego Learns That It Cannot Trademark An Interconnecting Brick

from the can't-compete,-huh? dept

For many years now, we've covered Lego's quixotic quest to "trademark" its famous brick design. It hasn't gone well. Back in 2005, we wrote about how Canada rejected a trademark claim it made against a competitor, MegaBlok. But Lego didn't stop there, and tried to go after Mega Blok in Europe. In 2008, it lost in Europe as well. Rather than recognize the situation and focus on actually competing in the marketplace, Lego kept appealing. However, SteelWolf points us to the news that the European Court of Justice has upheld that 2008 ruling, meaning, once again, Lego has been told you can't trademark interconnecting bricks. And to think, all that time, Lego's lawyers could have just been building something cool. In the meantime, it still seems silly that the company was so focused on this. It has built up a strong fan base, and a great brand, without having to resort to trademark tricks to eliminate competitors.


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  1.  
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    Craig (profile), Sep 15th, 2010 @ 11:32am

    Lego litigation and product pricing

    Lego bricks are a premium toy, and as such are very expensive. Maybe if they quit the fcuking litigating their prices could drop a bit. (This is the sound of me holding my breath.) But what lawyer is going to talk her boss into NOT litigating? It's called job security, right?

    Lego NEEDS the competition to evolve, so they should just focus on the people that do buy their kits and not worry what anyone else does. You only have to use those cheap knock-off versions of Lego bricks to realize that Lego has the superior product. Besides, Lego builders all over the world have more ideas than all of the engineers at Lego. Connect with them and you'll do just fine.

     

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  2.  
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    Rose M. Welch (profile), Sep 15th, 2010 @ 12:07pm

    Re: Lego litigation and product pricing

    Lego has the superior Lego-style product, but there are several other building block styles that are superior, less pricey, and hurt less when you step on them. :)

     

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  3.  
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    Marcus Carab (profile), Sep 15th, 2010 @ 12:17pm

    Lego-lovers are one of the most rabid and committed fanbases I've ever seen. It's absolutely insane that they thought this was necessary or even slightly productive.

     

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  4.  
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    Joe, Sep 15th, 2010 @ 12:36pm

    Tradmark violations? What are they Scientology

     

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  5.  
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    Christopher Gizzi (profile), Sep 15th, 2010 @ 12:44pm

    Same problem: litigate instead of innovate

    Lego has deep problems that are masked by a well recognized brand. If you haven't noticed, they've released more "licensed" kits for movies than any original design. They've hit the jackpot with the Star Wars sets and have had great success with Spider-Man and others.

    Before that, Lego was struggling to stay profitable; sales were down compared to earlier years. Perhaps it was a combination of competition from other block makers or with interactive devices from Nintendo and Sony. But whatever the reason, Lego can't seem to innovate and adapt with changing times.

    Sure, those licensed tie-ins are hugely profitable but it’s their only real trick right now. And I think they know that. Otherwise, they would be confident in their reputation as a brick maker.

    P.S.

    As a HUGE Lego fan as a child, I am really upset that the licensing has gotten so big for them. I'm all for special & rare sets but the fun I had with their blocks came from being able to create my own world. The special pieces and branded parts that come with those sets wouldn't let me be as creative.

     

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  6.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 15th, 2010 @ 12:47pm

    lego has sucked since the very custom style pieces. What? its only 13 pieces to make this x-wing fighter? Instead of the 100 or so you used to get for a small build.

     

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  7.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 15th, 2010 @ 12:59pm

    "And to think, all that time, Lego's lawyers could have just been building something cool."

    Doubtful.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 15th, 2010 @ 1:05pm

    Re:

    More than doubtful. As an engineer, I've never seen a lawyer 'build' anything. Lawyers deal with the law not with building things.

     

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  9.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 15th, 2010 @ 1:07pm

    "it still seems silly that the company was so focused on this"

    As if a trademark issue is the only thing that Lego is focused on. Keep making stuff up Mike, maybe one day you actually get good at it.

     

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  10.  
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    Matt (profile), Sep 15th, 2010 @ 1:07pm

    Re:

    Having assembled the X-wing I can assure you its much more than 13 pieces.

     

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  11.  
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    Matt (profile), Sep 15th, 2010 @ 1:10pm

    Re:

    You've got a good point, people are always saying "if they hadn't wasted so much time litigating..." Unless the entire company is lawyers chances are it was only the lawyers wasting time.

     

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  12.  
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    DS, Sep 15th, 2010 @ 1:14pm

    Re:

    "and to think, all that time, Lego's lawyers could have just been building something cool"

    I think Mike was joking.

    I really don't think Lego would hire lawyers to sit around and build things.

     

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  13.  
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    rabbit wise (profile), Sep 15th, 2010 @ 1:15pm

    Re:

    *foams at mouth*

    I have never bought or received one of their licensed kits, however, the Lego store near me just put in a wall of drawers of just plain old blocks for sale. I have a picture of it. It is my wallpaper. *sigh* I love Legos.

    I think I'm going to go home and build Luxor. No, the temple complex in Egypt not ... the temple complex in Vegas.

     

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  14.  
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    Matt (profile), Sep 15th, 2010 @ 1:16pm

    Re: Same problem: litigate instead of innovate

    I'd say the bigger problem is the lack of flexibility in the newer sets (including a bunch of non-licensed sets).

    My son has a firetruck set and it can build a firetruck and not much else. I may be misremembering my childhood, but I recall the sets had a lot more generic parts. The specialized parts can be nice but they make it a lot harder to build something completely from one's imagination.

     

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    imbrucy (profile), Sep 15th, 2010 @ 1:16pm

    Re:

    Having assembled several of the Star Wars series sets I can tell you that it is very few custom pieces. Almost all the pieces were generic bricks, many of which have been around in their same incarnation since I was a kid 20 years ago.

     

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  16.  
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    Matt (profile), Sep 15th, 2010 @ 1:24pm

    Re: Re:

    It took all of my will power (and threats from my wife) not to spend my life's savings the first time I saw the wall of blocks.

    I think you can also order whatever blocks you want online too, I believe they even have a CAD program so you can design a set and then order it.

     

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  17.  
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    rabbit wise (profile), Sep 15th, 2010 @ 1:32pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    Please don't make me embarass myself. : )

    Yes, you can order bags of blocks online. I'll just leave it at that.

     

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  18.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 15th, 2010 @ 1:47pm

    I don't understand how lego can't trademark their product. But crap-ass Lucas Film can trademark the word "droid" what am I missing in terms of common sense here???

     

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  19.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Sep 15th, 2010 @ 1:48pm

    Re:

    Please recheck your humor sensors.

    Thanks.

     

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  20.  
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    Bengie, Sep 15th, 2010 @ 2:26pm

    Re: Re:

    Time is money.

    More time spent on litigation HAS to be less time spent on designing.

    More money spent on litigation HAS to be less money spent on designing.

     

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  21.  
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    Chronno S. Trigger (profile), Sep 15th, 2010 @ 2:33pm

    Re:

    Lego has a trademark on the word "Lego", they do not have a trademark on the concept of interconnecting bricks. Just like Lucas has a trademark on the word "droid" but does not have a trademark on a machine shaped like a person.

     

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  22.  
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    DL, Sep 15th, 2010 @ 2:36pm

    Yeah but, Lego has a superior product

    While I agree with this article. I really have to stress that if you have every played with any of Lego's competitors, their bricks are much less quality built. They break apart when just nudged and can't support the larger projects. Growing up we had a huge pile of Lego, but there were some of these blocks mixed. My brother and I would (and still do) refuse to use any of these blocks in our projects.

     

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  23.  
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    Chronno S. Trigger (profile), Sep 15th, 2010 @ 2:38pm

    Re:

    I have the same complaint as you do. They don't make you build the complex peaces they just make one peace to do the same thing. I've built sets that had a few thousand peaces, but today it would be only a few hundred and much smaller due to the custom peaces that can't be used anywhere else. I still have my giant box of Legos.

    I may have to make a visit to Toys R Us to see if they have any good sets now.

     

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  24.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 15th, 2010 @ 3:58pm

    Minibrix, 1935 - 1976

     

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  25.  
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    Jack Thompson (profile), Sep 15th, 2010 @ 4:21pm

    As a long-term Lego fan it disappoints me to see them descending to such tactics.

    Lego is a good example of the execution being more important than IP for business success. Lego bricks are extremely well made to very tight tolerances (certainly tighter than any other childrens toy). The fact that millions upon millions of plastic bricks have been manufactured that are ALL compatible with each other and will interconnect strongly is quite incredible. Their competitors simply don't match such quality.

     

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  26.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 15th, 2010 @ 5:56pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    Given the prices of their products, Lego should have enough cash for the legal team and the engineering team. It can be both ways, it does not HAVE to be one or the other.

     

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  27.  
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    Sneeje (profile), Sep 15th, 2010 @ 6:41pm

    Re:

    Yup. I bought my son one of the halo mega blok sets, which he was really excited about. That excitement turned to frustration very quickly when he showed me that a number of the pieces had difficulty staying together. Those pieces now sit unused.

     

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  28.  
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    SteelWolf (profile), Sep 15th, 2010 @ 6:46pm

    Re: Yeah but, Lego has a superior product

    That truth is why Lego has nothing to worry about. People know that they are getting a quality product when they buy a real Lego set, and the company has some serious brand loyalty.

    The fact that despite their advantages, Lego doesn't think it can compete in the marketplace is frustrating.

     

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  29.  
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    Marcus Carab (profile), Sep 16th, 2010 @ 6:49am

    Re: Re: Lego litigation and product pricing

    I do love a good set of Kapla planks

     

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  30.  
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    nasch (profile), Sep 19th, 2010 @ 4:50pm

    Re: Re:

    I'm all for peace and everything, but in this case it's "piece".

     

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  31.  
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    nasch (profile), Sep 19th, 2010 @ 4:51pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Where do you think the money to litigate came from? If they hadn't spent it on litigation, what would have happened to it?

     

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