Once Again, Lego Learns That It Doesn't Own The Concept Of Interconnecting Blocks

from the welcome-to-the-world-of-competition dept

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.

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Companies: lego, mega brands

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Comments on “Once Again, Lego Learns That It Doesn't Own The Concept Of Interconnecting Blocks”

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22 Comments
One Disciple (profile) says:

Competing in the market

Lego has let their quality slip in recent years, but is still better then mega bloks. I have children and still prefer lego to the cheaper no namers, but must admit that I bought a set of the larger mega bloks thinking they were duplo and have regetted it ever since. The two packages are almost identical. That is the point of trademark I thought, so that when the consumer buys what looks like a brand, it is not some cheap fake masquerading as the real thing

Sneeje says:

FWIW

I think LEGO has their business model right in other ways. If you look at they way they price and market their sets, they compete not on the basis of the ubiquitous blocks, but the unique and special pieces (color, texture, painted pictures), and *especially* the minifigures. They also compete based on tie-ins to pop-culture like Star Wars, etc. All of those things will continue to be hard to duplicate or compete with.

Chronno S. Trigger says:

I may have missed something 4 years ago

Mega Blocks have been around since I was a kid, and they blew back then too. I went to great lengths to get rid of all the Mega Blocks from my Lego box. I still have my Lego box too (two of them now), saving it for my kids just like my dad saved his.

So if Mega Blocks were around way back then and they even kinda (but not really) interconnected to Legos (it’s why they sucked), than why was the suit filed in 2005 and now?

Anonymous Coward says:

If the blocks fit together isnt that a physical object which can be tradmwarked? Wouldn’t the very fact that the blocks are interchangeable indicate the MegaBlocks simply made a mold of a LEGO block and duplicated the design?

If someone were to make a mold of the pillsbury dough boy and sale them do you not think that they would be stopped? Are you such a communist that you can’t see why duplicating a companies design should be prevented?

DanC says:

Re: Re:

If the blocks fit together isnt that a physical object which can be tradmwarked?

A trademark isn’t a physical object, so I’m not sure where you’re coming from here. LEGO blocks were originally patented, but those patents have expired. LEGO is attempting to continue their monopoly be resorting to trademark law.

Wouldn’t the very fact that the blocks are interchangeable indicate the MegaBlocks simply made a mold of a LEGO block and duplicated the design?

No, it wouldn’t. It would indicate that Mega made a mold that allowed for interchangeable use with LEGO blocks.

If someone were to make a mold of the pillsbury dough boy and sale them do you not think that they would be stopped?

If you had actually bothered to read the article, you would have noticed that the reason the trademark was rejected was because it was attempting to protect a functional design.

Are you such a communist that you can’t see why duplicating a companies design should be prevented?

Please to explain how supporting open competition in the free market is a characteristic of communism.

Valkor says:

Re: Re:

Ok, I have a feeling that I’m feeding a troll here…

You do understand that physical objects are not trademarks, right? Oh, wait, you don’t. As a matter of fact, you seem to have managed to conflate patents, trademarks, and copyrights all in the same post. I don’t know if I could have done that so adeptly if I had tried.

Here is a link to a page with the basic basics of the three:
http://www.lawmart.com/searches/difference.htm

In your orignal post “LEGO” and “MegaBlocks” are trademarks, the interchangable block design is a patent (expired) and the Pillsbury Doughboy shape is probably a copyrighted character, though his image and name are also trademarks.

Finally, in response to your last question: Are *you* such a fascist that you don’t see that monopoly is beneficial for certain companies in the short term but detrimental to innovation and economic freedom in the long term?

Joe Smith says:

Interchangeability is the key

As several commentators have pointed out the real issue should be that Mega Blocks makes their blocks the same or almost the same size as the Lego blocks. Even though I am a big fan of Lego (and still have some very old Lego that my parents bought for me in 1956 or 1957) I think Mega Blocks should be free to build interlocking blocks to their heart’s content – just not in a size that can interconnect with the Lego blocks. Making the blocks the same size inevitably leads to confusion (passing off)in the market place and allows Mega Blocks to trade on Lego’s goodwill.

DanC says:

Re: Interchangeability is the key

I think Mega Blocks should be free to build interlocking blocks to their heart’s content – just not in a size that can interconnect with the Lego blocks.

As long as the package the blocks come in states that they’re made by Mega, then it doesn’t matter that they interconnect with Lego’s.

Making the blocks the same size inevitably leads to confusion (passing off)in the market place and allows Mega Blocks to trade on Lego’s goodwill.

All the packaging I’ve seen has the Mega Bloks logo prominently displayed. The only “inevitable confusion” is among those who can’t be bothered to look at what they’re buying.

No one you'll ever meet says:

Re: faux trademark

Ignorance is a drug; and you need an intervention.

Faux guffaw at your failed sarcasm aside…

Maybe you should read a little about copyright and trademark law, then visit any of a thousand websites that explain what a patent is. There’s quite a bit of difference between a patent and a trademark.

Pax says:

why do they not just make their own bricks ?

why is it you can directly copy a design after only 25years.
but you have to wait 90years after the authur is dead to legaly record yourself singing a song written by someone else?

is it resonable to protect the virtual blocks of tetris,
for about 100 years longer than the physical blocks of lego?

there have newer been any reason they couldnt just make, bricks with square pegs, bumps, or in any other dimensions.
(lego themself was inspired by another brick,
one with holes in the round pegs, and no holes in the sides like lego tecnics)

no they make them so its hard to determine if it is real lego or not! its plain old forgery!

if not every country had a law agains counterfeiting money,
you could argue that after 25years it should be ok to make metal pices with the same weight and dimensions as coins..
its only a design right?

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