Every parent wants to encourage their kid's natural interests, but there are a ton of other influences in the lives of little kids -- like toy makers and advertisers. It can be difficult to find purely educational toys that aren't trying to peddle a bunch of other stuff. For parents of little girls, the toy aisles seem particularly loaded with questionable themes. Here are just a few examples.
There are plenty of marketing gurus who will advise company founders to choose names and logos very carefully -- making sure to avoid confusing names or names without the appropriate gravitas. Then again, there are several companies with names that break the rules.
Technology has come a long way in the last few decades. Just about every computer (or smartphone) we use now is vastly more powerful than the primitive electronics that helped put astronauts on the surface of the moon. Gadgets are getting so cheap that toys are becoming impressively advanced. Here are just a few examples.
There are a lot of new toys out for this holiday season. There's still some time to shop for some cool toys, and here are just a few examples of toys that are expanding their markets into other uses and demographics.
More and more robots are learning new tricks every day. In the not-too-distant future, everyone could be playing and working with robots all the time. Here are some interesting videos of robots demonstrating cool motor skills.
Robots are incredibly useful machines that are becoming more and more important for everyone. Kids are building them. Robots are building more robots. Pretty soon, we'll be surrounded by robots... oh sorry Roomba, we already are. Here are some cool videos and some examples of robots that are helping us out (and not trying to enslave us).
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.
Tom Kintop was the first of a few of you to send in the news that LEGO, makers of the plastic bricks -- and rather well known for its overly aggressive intellectual property enforcement attempts, which often get shot down -- has sued a small non-profit organization in Minneapolis called Project Legos, where the Legos stands for Leadership, Empowerment, Growth, Opportunity, Sustainability. While both are targeted at children, it's hard to see that the two compete in any way in the same "market." It's difficult to see how there's any confusion here, or how it does LEGO any good suing a small charitable organization. They should send over some LEGO bricks and apologize.
We recently wrote about the ridiculous job for lawyers making sure no unauthorized brands appear in a movie -- which doesn't have much of a legal basis. But, for some reason, companies back down on that sort of stuff all the time. The latest example involves the classic mockumentary band Spinal Tap, who is putting out a new DVD, where they thought (correctly) that it would be cool to include a fan-made video of one of their "hits," "Tonight I'm Gonna Rock You Tonight." The video was made by a then 14-year-old and was a stop-action video involving a lego version of the band and its fans:
Now, from Spinal Tap's point of view, this is a very cool way of connecting with fans: making use of a cool video in their DVD. In fact, they even played it up, and during a live performance where the video was shown, got real-life fans to mimic the lego fans, by holding their hands in the infamous "C" position of the plastic lego figures. But, of course, the lawyers got in the way. Lego objected to some of the words in the song and denied the use of the video on the DVD (oddly, the DVD still shows the fans with their hands, though it no longer makes any sense). But the real question is why Lego was even consulted. As Kimberley Isbell notes, Lego doesn't seem to have a legal leg to stand on here:
Lego justified its stance by citing the "commercial" nature of the Spinal Tap video. But can Lego really prohibit the use of their products in commercial videos? If you ask the federal courts, the answer is likely "no." It's a lesson that Mattel has repeatedly had to learn the hard way.
Back in 2005, we wrote about a Canadian Supreme Court decisions that cleared Montreal company Mega Brands from charges of trademark violations for creating Mega Bloks as a competitor to Lego's well known interconnecting blocks. For years, Lego owned patents on its blocks, but those patents expired and, as has been known to happen, competitors entered the space. Lego, of course, decided that rather than compete on the merits, it would continue to try to avoid market competition through the use of trademark and copyright law. Despite losing in Canada, the company still pushed its trademark claims in Europe -- but a European court has now sided with Mega Brands as well, in noting that no trademark should be allowed on the concept of interconnecting blocks.
It's quite likely that Lego will appeal this decision, as the company has quite the reputation for being overly aggressive when it comes to protecting its offerings. However, hopefully the company will realize that actually competing in the marketplace isn't such a bad thing sometimes.