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.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    One Disciple, Nov 13th, 2008 @ 10:05am

    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

     

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  2.  
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    Buzz, Nov 13th, 2008 @ 10:48am

    Re: Competing in the market

    The blocks may look the same, but the trademark should clearly display that it is NOT Lego brand.

     

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  3.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 13th, 2008 @ 10:52am

    L E G O

    If this is about trademarks shouldn't it be spelled LEGO? All uppercase is the proper spelling of the interconnecting blocks from Denmark.

     

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  4.  
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    Sneeje, Nov 13th, 2008 @ 11:07am

    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.

     

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  5.  
    identicon
    DS78, Nov 13th, 2008 @ 11:23am

    Old school?

    You can call me old school, but we buy almost exclusively Lego brand in my home. I don't care much for Mega Blocks and neither does my son.

     

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  6.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 13th, 2008 @ 11:34am

    The main issue I think is that the blocks are interchangeable with LEGO's blocks. Not an issue as much that someone makes knock off LEGO's.

     

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  7.  
    identicon
    zippy, Nov 13th, 2008 @ 11:39am

    Legos FTW

    I agree with most of the commenters that Mega Blocks blow. As a Marvel comics fan (mainly Hulk and Avengers properties), it pains me to no end that there are lame ugly Hulk Mega Blocks, but no sweet legos like there are for Batman.

     

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  8.  
    identicon
    Chronno S. Trigger, Nov 13th, 2008 @ 11:55am

    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?

     

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  9.  
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    hegemon13, Nov 13th, 2008 @ 11:57am

    Re:

    Doesn't matter. LEGO's patent ran out. End of story.

     

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  10.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 13th, 2008 @ 12:52pm

    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?

     

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  11.  
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    Joe Smith, Nov 13th, 2008 @ 1:21pm

    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.

     

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  12.  
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    Guy One, Nov 13th, 2008 @ 1:28pm

    Lego has nothing to worry about, competition is good! And Mega Blocks suck royal ass!

     

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  13.  
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    DanC, Nov 13th, 2008 @ 7:08pm

    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.

     

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  14.  
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    DanC, Nov 13th, 2008 @ 7:38pm

    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.

     

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  15.  
    identicon
    Valkor, Nov 13th, 2008 @ 7:44pm

    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?

     

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  16.  
    icon
    bikey (profile), Nov 14th, 2008 @ 12:26am

    faux trademark

    Now if only someone could pull together the gold bricks necessary to tell Disney that Mickey is not a trademark, but an expired copyright...

     

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  17.  
    identicon
    No one you'll ever meet, May 18th, 2009 @ 9:28am

    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.

     

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  18.  
    identicon
    tito, Aug 12th, 2009 @ 8:31am

    mega blocks

    i hate mega blocks but luve legos

     

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  19.  
    identicon
    tito, Aug 12th, 2009 @ 8:37am

    mega blocks

    i hate mega blocks but luve legos

     

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  20.  
    identicon
    garth a clowes, Mar 17th, 2014 @ 4:01pm

    lego

    Lego is a dominating co by the use of a fraudulent patent ,though the product is great ,and the new management is not
    as the founder

     

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  21.  
    identicon
    garth clowes, Mar 17th, 2014 @ 4:03pm

    Re: L E G O

    You are right

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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