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Lego Loses Its Unique Right To Make Lego Blocks

CmdrTaco posted about 6 years ago | from the this-could-be-huge dept.

Toys 576

tsa writes "The European Department of Justice has decided that the Danish company Lego does not have exclusive rights to the lego building block anymore (sorry, it's in Dutch). Lego went to court after a Canadian firm had made blocks that were so like lego blocks that they even fit the real blocks made by Lego. The European judge decided that the design of the lego blocks is not protected by European trademarks and so anyone can make the blocks." If true, hopefully this will open doors for people interested in inexpensive bulk purchase of bricks of specific sizes and colors. Perhaps at long last I can build a life-sized Hemos statue for my office.

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makes sense (5, Funny)

gEvil (beta) (945888) | about 6 years ago | (#25735025)

Lego was naar het Europese Hof van justitie gestapt in de strijd tegen de Canadese concurrent Mega Brands, die een blokje op de markt heeft gebracht dat past op die van Lego. Het Hof oordeelde vandaag dat het ontwerp van Lego niet is beschermd door het Europees merkenrecht en dat er dus geen sprake mag zijn van alleenrecht.

Can't really argue with that....

Re:makes sense (5, Funny)

cowscows (103644) | about 6 years ago | (#25735055)

Damn. I'm only 28 and already I'm so old that I can't make sense of this "leet-speak" that kids are using these days.

Let me attempt to translate... (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25735529)

Lego was naar het Europese Hof van justitie gestapt in de strijd tegen de Canadese concurrent Mega Brands, die een blokje op de markt heeft gebracht dat past op die van Lego. Het Hof oordeelde vandaag dat het ontwerp van Lego niet is beschermd door het Europees merkenrecht en dat er dus geen sprake mag zijn van alleenrecht.

My shot at it:

Lego was near hot European Hasselhoff just in time to gestate in the stride generator concurrent with the Canada geese Mega Brands, ...okay, I give up...

Re:makes sense (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25735549)

Oh yeah? Get off my lawn!

Re:makes sense (2, Funny)

Rigrig (922033) | about 6 years ago | (#25735617)

Guess you're right, I'm 25 and I understand it just fine.

Re:makes sense (3, Informative)

10e6Steve (545457) | about 6 years ago | (#25735221)

Lego had stepped to the European Court of Justice in the fight against the Canadian competitor Mega fire, which a cube on the market has brought that watches out which of Lego. The court judged today that the design of Lego has not been protected by the European merkenrecht and that there can no talk be therefore of exclusive right.

From the babelfish

Re:makes sense (4, Funny)

snspdaarf (1314399) | about 6 years ago | (#25735341)

Can't really argue with that, either!

Re:makes sense (3, Funny)

genner (694963) | about 6 years ago | (#25735383)

Can't really argue with that, either!

I could argue that....but I don't feel like it.

Re:makes sense, meh (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25735613)

Yeah, on the one hand, the race to the bottom wins again.

On the other hand, Lego is a socially responsible company with zero waste, excellent pay and bennies for all employees, and an all around good company. I hope this doesn't mean the collapse of the Danish economy. I mean, they pretty much have Legos, Bang and Olfsen, Hans Christian Anderson... and that's about it.

first block! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25735029)

one 1x1

Re:first block! (2, Funny)

MindKata (957167) | about 6 years ago | (#25735165)

Great, time to open source Lego! ... err... not sure how, but it sounds great in theory!

Re:first block! (4, Funny)

atomicthumbs (824207) | about 6 years ago | (#25735393)

one 1x1

Flat or tall?

in english (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25735043)

The decision can be consulted in English as well at the ECJ's website: http://curia.europa.eu/ [europa.eu]

(and Lego hasn't had such exclusive right for quite a while...)

English translation (4, Informative)

jschen (1249578) | about 6 years ago | (#25735053)

http://www.dw-world.de/dw/article/0,2144,3784225,00.html [dw-world.de] The news is not that generic blocks didn't previously exist. It's that Lego is unable to retain the trademark.

Re:English translation (5, Insightful)

OwnedByTwoCats (124103) | about 6 years ago | (#25735217)

Lego is unable to retain its trademark

  • on the shape of the blocks

(or, in particular, the red, 2x4 block). So it sounds like others will be able to make compatible blocks.

Had Lego lost their trademark on the Lego name, that would have been much worse.

Re:English translation (1)

alta (1263) | about 6 years ago | (#25735339)

Doesn't seem that valuable to me... So now I'll be able to buy massive boxes of red 2X4 blocks. Big deal, I want more than just red!

Re:English translation (1)

Rary (566291) | about 6 years ago | (#25735531)

Doesn't seem that valuable to me... So now I'll be able to buy massive boxes of red 2X4 blocks. Big deal, I want more than just red!

You can already get whatever you want [lego.com] .

Re:English translation (4, Insightful)

gregbot9000 (1293772) | about 6 years ago | (#25735515)

Well, I'm surprised they were able to have anything like that this long. They have been around 50 years, any patent should have ran out years ago. Interesting they would try to trademark the block, which doesn't run out, good thing it didn't work, for the consumer at least.

I see Lego announcing a change in which country it resides in, to one more favorable towards corporations in trademark laws. That or outsourcing few plants to China to stay competitive.

And whats with all the toy stories and polls? Is /. gearing up for some big holiday push?

End of legoes (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25735063)

And here comes the end of the Lego story. Too bad, they won't be able to make a decent profit and get good media deals (Star Wars sets, etc) if they don't have a decent monopoly on blocks.

Cheap = Good for parents (4, Insightful)

TrickFred (231420) | about 6 years ago | (#25735077)

My kids have been playing with Mega Bloks for years. When you can buy big buckets of them for $20 when Lego costs $100 or more for the bigger sets, well, the choice is obvious.

Re:Cheap = Good for parents (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25735157)

Mega bloks are way inferior, you cheapskate! My children have only Lego.

I bet you run an AMD processor too.

(BTW isn't this story about 2 years old?)

Re:Cheap = Good for parents (4, Informative)

Black Cardinal (19996) | about 6 years ago | (#25735175)

We bought some Mega Bloks for our son, but the plastic they used (polypropylene?) is too soft to keep a good grip. Duplos are made out of ABS plastic that holds its shape much better, so the blocks stay locked and structures stay together. We can't even build a simple staircase out of Mega Bloks without frustration. Constructions have to have twice as many Mega Bloks as Duplos to have the same strength.

While though the Mega Bloks are cheaper, we'll probably stick to Duplo and Lego for the future.

Re:Cheap = Good for parents (4, Informative)

Fishead (658061) | about 6 years ago | (#25735239)

I agree. Mega blocks are crap.

We picked up a huge bin at a garage sale last summer. Most of it was Lego, but there was just enough Mega Blocks to frustrate you. They don't fit right, they don't hold very good, and the colours suck.

I am a big fan of competition. Hopefully this drives down the price of real legos.

If they lost the trademark though, Mega Blocks can start marketing their product as lego. That would suck.

Re: MS Blocks! (4, Funny)

TaoPhoenix (980487) | about 6 years ago | (#25735427)

Following their pattern of Wait & BadlyCopy, Microsoft will announce the need for the strategic purchase of Mega so they can Embrace the Blocks, Extend, and Extinguish Lego!

Re:Cheap = Good for parents (1)

orkysoft (93727) | about 6 years ago | (#25735459)

They're not going to lose the Lego trademark. The bricks themselves can't be the trademark, though.

Re:Cheap = Good for parents (5, Informative)

2short (466733) | about 6 years ago | (#25735497)

"I agree. Mega blocks are crap.

We picked up a huge bin at a garage sale last summer. "

Older Mega blocks are crap. Mega Blocks produced in recent years are just as mechanically good as Lego, and after this decision might start looking as good too.

Lego has had various varieties of legal protections on their blocks in various countries. They had some patents on elements of their production process that prevented others from making good blocks cheap; hence the crappy Mega Blocks. Those patents expired a while ago, so MegaBlocks became good.
    Lego still had a trademarks in various countries on the look of the iconic red brick. Hence the different colour scheme you don't like. That trademark is now gone, so expect Mega Blocks to start looking nice.
    Lego still has, and presumably always will have, a trademark on the name "Lego". So they'll continue to benefit from their (well deserved) reputation for quality, and charge more for their bricks. But MegaBlocks might, now, be just as good.

Re:Cheap = Good for parents (4, Insightful)

Fallingcow (213461) | about 6 years ago | (#25735571)

I got a huge Mega Blocks tyrannosaurus set one year for Christmas.

I never managed to assemble it--not for lack of trying, but because the blocks weren't capable of supporting the structure. Legos would have done it, no problem, but the Mega Blocks invariably came apart around 1/3 to 1/2 of the way through. Any more, and they'd fall apart under the weight. My parents even tried glueing some parts when they saw how much it sucked, but that didn't help; it would just break in different places.

No grip. Can't build anything big with them. Certainly can't move even mid-sized things constructed from them, let alone play with your constructions. LAME.

Re:Cheap = Good for parents (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25735483)

And this is the crux of the issue, IMHO.

Pro: More companies will produce LEGO compatible parts, bring prices down and push availability up.

Cons: LEGO has an incredibly high standard of quality for their product, and you can pretty much bet no other company will have that same commitment to quality.

You get what you pay for.

That said, though... Does this include their TECHNIC line of parts? 'cause they really don't seem to be producing the kits they used to. I wouldn't mind more bulk / non-specific project style boxes being available.
=Smidge=

Re:Cheap = Good for parents (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25735615)

Incredible.

That is a genuinely interesting and insightful comment apparently coming from Smidge207 [slashdot.org] . But, in order to avoid wrecking his terrible karma, he goes A/C. What an odd personality.

A/C 'cuz this has nothing to do with Legos...

Re:Cheap = Good for parents (0, Troll)

GrumpyOldMan (140072) | about 6 years ago | (#25735227)

As long as you are selfish, and don't mind buying things made in 3rd world sweatshops, then yes the choice is obvious.

One of the reasons we purchase legos (both for our son, and as gifts for other kids) is that they are one of the few toys you can easily purchase which are still made in the first (or at least second) world. I suspect this will drive them to do more offshoring themselves, to reduce their costs. ...Sigh

Re:Cheap = Good for parents (1)

ettlz (639203) | about 6 years ago | (#25735419)

One of the reasons we purchase legos (both for our son, and as gifts for other kids) is that they are one of the few toys you can easily purchase which are still made in the first (or at least second) world.

...BY ROBOTIC SLAVES. When Skynet gets serious, you realise that we'll all be forced at gunpoint to operate injection moulding machines?

Re:Cheap = Good for parents (1)

khellendros1984 (792761) | about 6 years ago | (#25735463)

"Second world" usually referred to the realm of Soviet Russia's control. It's an obsolete term, and Denmark wasn't in Soviet hands anyhow.

Re:Cheap = Good for parents (2, Insightful)

Arthur B. (806360) | about 6 years ago | (#25735525)

Probably not, Lego factories are entirely robotized. Labor costs are not a big part of the production cost.

That being said, your consuming choices reflect ignorance of economics, stick to selfish choices, you're smart enough to make those.

Re:Cheap = Good for parents (1)

jmhoule314 (921571) | about 6 years ago | (#25735535)

(or at least second) world

You mean communist countries under soviet power during the cold war?

Re:Cheap = Good for parents (4, Interesting)

Pope (17780) | about 6 years ago | (#25735303)

My parents always bought me real Lego bricks, and I have practically all of those bricks/sets 30+ years on. They still click and snap like new. Good luck getting that kind of lifespan from the cheap knock-offs.

Quality costs money, pure and simple. So, no, the choice isn't "obvious" at all.

Re:Cheap = Good for parents (3, Insightful)

dubbreak (623656) | about 6 years ago | (#25735315)

Exactly. This is old news. Mega Blocks have been around for years and this issue came up in north america quite a while ago. Lego lost their suit because they don't have a patent on the block design. Claiming that a block the same shape and size is a trademark infringement is a bit of a reach. The proper IP vehicle would have been a patent (though maybe the lego block design was unpatentable?).

Re:Cheap = Good for parents (1)

Shrubbman (3807) | about 6 years ago | (#25735391)

Even if the design was patentable, said patent would have expired decades ago by now anyway.

Cheap = Good? (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25735323)

I for one am looking forward to the explosion of availability of cheap melamine and lead-laced lego-like blocks for young toddlers.

Mmmm, mmmm! Nothing says safe, wholesome and tasty like cheap imports from third-world sweat-shops.

Re:Cheap = Good for parents (3, Informative)

tim_darklighter (822987) | about 6 years ago | (#25735417)

When I was about 12 years old (1993), Megablocks used stickers as opposed to the painted-on details that LEGO used. The stickers would fall off within a few days, so things like faces and such went blank on Megablocks, whereas it took a lot more time to scratch the paint off of LEGO blocks. Megablocks also seemed very light and never seemed to snap together as tightly as my LEGO blocks. In short, even as a 12 year old, I thought they were inferior and continued asked for LEGO specifically since I didn't like the Megablocks that my friends had. LEGO bricks were just more fun.

If these points are still true concerning both companies, then I am still willing to pay for a bin of $100 LEGO because they are the superior product. (Granted, I'm sure the $20 to $100 difference is exaggerated).

On a related note, most of my LEGO are still in good shape, so I can just mix in my old blocks with my kids' new blocks, and voila, a cheaper alternative to buying whole new buckets.

Good for your wallet, but poor quality (4, Interesting)

hellfire (86129) | about 6 years ago | (#25735595)

Personally, I hated megablocks, because the bricks are not made with the same quality as Legos. Legos have a very exacting standard they make for each brick, to guarentee they fit together and stay together when you want to, and come apart when you need them to. Megablocks I found are looser, and don't stay together as often. I'm anal. I played with Legos when I was young, but when I grew up, my son and I put together some megablocks sets he got from someone else. The comparative quality was very poor.

However, in terms of business, a competition between Megablocks and Legos is a good thing. Legos wants (I hope) to be a higher quality toy, while Megablocks is for those who are less anal and more frugal. They have carved out their own niches and provide choice for the consumer. Additional players in the market should help.

At the same time, I hope someone tackles with the idea that lego sets are too specialized now. There are so many specialty pieces that it limits the amount you can create with a single set, and limits the replay value. Back in the 80s, there were tons of new pieces that weren't all just bricks, but those pieces could still be creatively used to build new models from your imagination. The odd shaped clear plastic panel that curls around the model just so and only has one real use is annoying.

Obligatory (-1, Offtopic)

airedalez (743328) | about 6 years ago | (#25735093)

All your base are belong to us

Re:Obligatory (0, Offtopic)

airedalez (743328) | about 6 years ago | (#25735113)

Maybe I meant... All your blocks are belong to us...

Re:Obligatory (1)

77Punker (673758) | about 6 years ago | (#25735183)

Maybe it's more like this:

All of your blocks are belong to us, but so are some blocks from someone else, too.

Re:Obligatory (4, Funny)

smitty97 (995791) | about 6 years ago | (#25735579)

Fixed it:

All your baseplates are belong to us

Hardly a shocker (1)

Xeth (614132) | about 6 years ago | (#25735123)

There have been Lego knockoffs for years. But they're just not as high quality. Lego blocks are expensive because they are made to exacting tolerances, and last for a long time.

Don't expect that off-brand statue to stand on its own, Rob.

This is the truth (1)

Moryath (553296) | about 6 years ago | (#25735199)

I had a lot of these when I was a kid - both the real, and the knock-off types. I can't remember how many times something fell apart because I'd accidentally gotten a knock-off brick in a bad spot and it didn't hold properly. The knock-offs just can't hold properly when you use them to make a hinge...

Re:This is the truth (1)

OrangeTide (124937) | about 6 years ago | (#25735331)

TYCO blocks would just about shoot off any LEGOs they were clipped to, if you used only one brand together they seemed to work better.

Re:This is the truth (1)

Moryath (553296) | about 6 years ago | (#25735513)

Funny. My TYCO blocks barely held on to each other.

Re:Hardly a shocker (1)

Kamokazi (1080091) | about 6 years ago | (#25735295)

I agree. Even as a kid, the offbrands didn't feel as sturdy as lego bricks. And their set variety sucked and was not as interesting.

Re:Hardly a shocker (1)

khellendros1984 (792761) | about 6 years ago | (#25735511)

I had some brand of knock-offs that were indistinguishable in quality from Lego. There are only a couple ways to tell them apart: No "lego" printed on the tops of the studs, and they were based on half-heights instead of 1/3 heights. So the full height blocks were indistinguishable, construction-wise. Now, if I could just remember the name of the brand....

ISO Standard (4, Insightful)

ryanguill (988659) | about 6 years ago | (#25735127)

I think they ought to take the ruling in stride and just open source the bricks. Make them an ISO standard, but continue to provide quality over quantity. Then let the Canadian company do the cheap bricks so that we can build whatever we want out of bulk. Wish they would do this with the mindstorm stuff too!

Re:ISO Standard (4, Informative)

amorsen (7485) | about 6 years ago | (#25735289)

It's actually damn hard to make the bricks. Lego found this out when they outsourced production a few years ago. It turned out to be a bad deal both for Flextronics and Lego, so now the factories are all back under direct Lego management.

Huge Lego Block Nelson Says Ha-Ha! (1)

resistant (221968) | about 6 years ago | (#25735135)

Forgive me, O! All-Father of Trademarks. I shall do penance with a huge Lego block construction of Marge looking sad and concerned.

Re:Huge Lego Block Nelson Says Ha-Ha! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25735269)

Why not make it entirely out of Blocko brand assembly fun blocks?

Re:Huge Lego Block Nelson Says Ha-Ha! (1)

cthulu_mt (1124113) | about 6 years ago | (#25735347)

Krusty(TM) Brand Super-Flammable Carcinogenic Fun Blocks(TM)!

Now with 30% more choking hazard!

Hey! Hey! Kids!

Inexpensive Legos? (1)

demonbug (309515) | about 6 years ago | (#25735145)

Yay, time for some cheap Chinese knock-offs. Just watch out for the lead paint!

I wonder if there will soon be a whole section of Lego-compatible bricks in the toy store.

We zijn net opgekocht door een Nederlands bedrijf, dus moet ik borstel op mijn Nederlands.

Re:Inexpensive Legos? (1)

Aliencow (653119) | about 6 years ago | (#25735313)

I don't know if you just said that because it's obvious this is going to happen, or were you making a point about the fact that Mega-Brands was involved in the Chinese crap / knockoff lead scandals recently?

They almost went bankrupt too!

Chinese Legos (5, Funny)

OrangeTide (124937) | about 6 years ago | (#25735381)

Made for children, by children.

Re:Inexpensive Legos? (1)

YttriumOxide (837412) | about 6 years ago | (#25735587)

We zijn net opgekocht door een Nederlands bedrijf, dus moet ik borstel op mijn Nederlands

Een goeie idee, zeker... maar ik moet het zeggen dat de beste kans voor Nederlands leren is een mooie Nederlandse meisje als vriendin te hebben (het lukte voor mij!) ;)

OLS (5, Insightful)

Ambiguous Coward (205751) | about 6 years ago | (#25735147)

So, what Lego needs to do now is publish the OLS, or Open Lego Standard. Seriously, when it becomes obvious you're going to lose the battle, maybe it's time to embrace the alternative? Instead of fighting to keep your ideas out of the hands of others, fight to make sure that *everyone* uses your idea. It makes your assets valuable in a different way. This way, they'll still have control over the standard, and if products meet the standard, they get branded with "OLS Compliant!" and consumers know that if they buy "OLS Compliant!" parts, they'll work with their other "OLS Compliant!" parts, which makes consumers very happy, which makes the standard valuable.

-G

Re:OLS (1)

CRiMSON (3495) | about 6 years ago | (#25735235)

But this makes sense, and therefore can never come to pasture!

Re:OLS (1)

hansamurai (907719) | about 6 years ago | (#25735309)

Let's send this idea through ISO now, I'm sure it can be fast tracked into a real ISO/IEC Standard before Lego Open Standard realizes what hit them.

Re:OLS (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25735379)

OLS Capable
OLS Ready
OLS Compliant
OLS Certified

Re:OLS (1)

orkysoft (93727) | about 6 years ago | (#25735473)

OLS For Sure

Re:OLS (3, Funny)

philspear (1142299) | about 6 years ago | (#25735607)

This way, they'll still have control over the standard, and if products meet the standard, they get branded with "OLS Compliant!" and consumers know that if they buy "OLS Compliant!" parts, they'll work with their other "OLS Compliant!" parts, which makes consumers very happy, which makes the standard valuable.

Times have really changed. Back when I was buying legos, I was only concerned with whether or not I'd have enough to build a spaceship. Kids these days with their obsession with open source... They should just stick with microsoft legos.

Bets on how long Legos exist? (1)

Nylathotep (72183) | about 6 years ago | (#25735155)

Now that they can't charge $50 for a few dozen bricks, I can't imagine them surviving. Expect layoffs and diminished lines.

On one hand, it's kinda cool, because for a very long time their product has been way overpriced.

On the other hand, it'll be an end of an era.

Too bad they aren't a US company. We probably could of just given them a 75 billion dollar bail out.

Not for long (1)

DesScorp (410532) | about 6 years ago | (#25735223)

Most parents buy on price, not quality or brand name. If Chinese Legos cost a third of real Legos, they'll buy the Chinese version. Which is a shame because Legos' core sales helped fund some of their other intellectually interesting Lego projects, like the mindstorms stuff. If Lego stays in business, they'll have to reinvent themselves, but they wont be in the plastic brick business for very long now.

Re:Not for long (1)

wcb4 (75520) | about 6 years ago | (#25735603)

knock offs have been around for years. I'm 40, and I remember getting knock offs as a kid. The plastic was softer and the bricks were not completely solid (they had small holes between the pips on top. My parents had always bought us Legos, then one Christmas, we got these huge, 2000+ piece buckets of some knockoff. They fell apart. My dad played with the kids' Legos too, as I am sure many of us dads do today, so we will notice that the really cool r2 d2 we spent 2 hours building for our kids just simply falls apart when they move it. We never got anything but true Legos afterward. I will never buy my kids the knockoffs for that reason. I think that you have to give the consumer a little credit on this one. If this were a new toy, the store might be different, but today's dads grew up with these things, and we still play with the kids because Legos are just so damned cool, and WE would not want to play with the knock-offs. Don't expect Lego to go out of business any time soon. We are not the only people in the world to think that Lego makes a superior product. Every person who has ever played with both the real thing and a knock-off know it.

Re:Bets on how long Legos exist? (1)

nasch (598556) | about 6 years ago | (#25735457)

There are already knockoff Legos, and Lego is still doing just fine. They are not going to halve their prices, they are not going to shut their doors, and people will continue to buy their products.

Start worrying about Lego when somebody else starts making totally compatible, equally high quality pieces in interesting sets for less money.

Re:Bets on how long Legos exist? (1)

operagost (62405) | about 6 years ago | (#25735487)

Actually, here in the US we like to punish our corporations by seizing their "windfall profits." Meanwhile, foreign companies are allowed to rape us with impunity.

Re:Bets on how long Legos exist? (1)

RingDev (879105) | about 6 years ago | (#25735499)

If the product was priced such that it was sufficient to maintain their opperations, then how exactly was it over priced?

-Rick

Re:Bets on how long Legos exist? (2, Insightful)

khellendros1984 (792761) | about 6 years ago | (#25735565)

I've always had respect for Lego. I feel like their prices are high because they refuse to take the cheap-ass manufacturing shortcuts (like production in a 3rd world country). They sacrifice price for quality, and I find that admirable. Not to mention the fact that they are providing jobs within their own country.

About time (1)

Rik Sweeney (471717) | about 6 years ago | (#25735181)

I can't wait to play Blocko Star Wars next year.

Hemos Lego Statue (1)

lbmouse (473316) | about 6 years ago | (#25735207)

The questions is, would it be an anatomically correct Hemos statue?

Re:Hemos Lego Statue (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25735271)

Damn, you beat me to it. It is an obvious follow-up question though.

Re:Hemos Lego Statue (2, Funny)

operagost (62405) | about 6 years ago | (#25735573)

They don't make a small enough brick.

Lucky for Slashdot (1)

ebcdic (39948) | about 6 years ago | (#25735233)

Maybe they won't get sued for using the 8-blob Lego brick as a icon for stories about toys.

brand name = quality (4, Insightful)

smellsofbikes (890263) | about 6 years ago | (#25735253)

I have mixed feelings about this. I have 38 years' worth and hundreds of thousands of LEGO bricks, which cost an enormous amount, and it'd sure be nice to get vats of cheap bricks so I can build some of the things I want. (I'm halfway through making a 3-D printer using chocolate, that has a working space of about 9 cubic feet, and boy does that take a lot of blocks.)

But at the same time, companies will rush into the space formed by LEGO losing their trademark, build cheap bricks, outcompete LEGO, LEGO will go out of business, and then we'll be stuck with lots of cheap imitators who aren't making the beautiful stuff LEGO created, and that could end up destroying exactly what makes LEGO worthwhile.

There is a value to having a single entity driving a market -- a planned economy in miniature.

Re:brand name = quality (4, Insightful)

zappepcs (820751) | about 6 years ago | (#25735447)

Perhaps, but that economy was built on the quality and diversity of product, not simple market forces. It's kind of like Walmart. They have all the stuff that people normally buy, or most of it, and at cheap prices. When you want something that people don't normally buy, you have to shop somewhere else. So, yes, that drives the price up, but also creates special products.

I have concerns about imitators diluting the value of the market that Lego has built, to the point that it is no longer viable to create the special parts that Lego does create. I'm not talking about flag poles for ships or castles. Rather I'm talking more of the technic line of parts. If you want active models or robots etc. you need special parts, not just blocks. For example: to build a car Lego provides many wheels/tires/tank treads, Ackerman steerage, differential gearing, shock absorbers etc. The Lego gear-motors are awesome. Lego provides gears, axles, chains, even flex-shafts, worm-gears and housings, pneumatics, .... In fact, blocks are good, but to make really awesome geeky stuff you need all those special parts. I hope this does not mean an end to the specialty parts.

It would truly be the end of an era if those specialty parts go out of production.

Lego tried an end-run around the law (5, Interesting)

topham (32406) | about 6 years ago | (#25735263)

Lego tried an end-run around the law.

Copyright couldn't cover their bricks.
Patents ran out eons ago.
But Trademarks, Trademarks are perpetual... so they 'Trademark' a physical object instead of a name & logo. anybody wonder why they lost?

Re:Lego tried an end-run around the law (3, Interesting)

Ecuador (740021) | about 6 years ago | (#25735545)

They just didn't their idea far enough. If their studs were some sort of "Lego" monogram instead of simply circular then others would have to "print" their trademark on their products to make them compatible, breaking the law.
What? At least it is a better idea than installing rootkits on customers etc...

I thought (4, Informative)

Thelasko (1196535) | about 6 years ago | (#25735277)

If true, hopefully this will open doors for people interested in inexpensive bulk purchase of bricks of specific sizes and colors.

I thought you could already do that. [lego.com]

This isn't ALL good (2, Interesting)

cbreaker (561297) | about 6 years ago | (#25735279)

I was a lego boy when I grew up. I had a lot of legos.

I also had some imitation blocked made by Tyco. These immitation blocks never fit together well. You'd build something and it would fall apart. Although the bricks looked almost identical, the Tyco bricks just sucked.

So, I do worry about imitation blocks. Lego blocks are the best because they have impossibly high standards during manufacturing in order to avoid the frustration I experienced with the Tyco blocks.

If someone else is going to start really making sets to compete with Lego, let's hope they go the distance and implement quality control like Lego does.

Re:This isn't ALL good (4, Funny)

Quiet_Desperation (858215) | about 6 years ago | (#25735477)

I was a lego boy when I grew up. I had a lot of legos.

And then... what? Your fairy godmother made you a real boy?

Re:This isn't ALL good (1)

khellendros1984 (792761) | about 6 years ago | (#25735609)

I think that the extra blocks I had were Tyco. I never had a problem with them; they interlocked well....except for a few gray pieces I have, that don't have the middle-of-the-block "tubes" that provide extra locking force.

Lego didn't invent them in the first place (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25735355)

The plastic building block we associated with "LEGO" was actually invented and sold in the late 1940's by an English toy designer named Hilary Page under the "KIDDIECRAFT" brand. He failed to patent it outside the UK and LEGO started manufacturing them without acknowledging their origin.

After Hilary Page commited suicide, LEGO purchased the expired patents from Page's estate so they could pretend they invented them in the first place.

LEGO did invent and patent the little tube on the bottom of the brick, which wasn't in Page's original design, which allows for more connection possibilities. Once that patent expired, other companies, such as Canada's MEGA, (creator of Mega Bloks) created clones. LEGO, of course, sued for trademark infringement. In the US, they lost, because you can't trademark and patent the same things - functional elements, which are covered by patents, can't be trademarked. Other countries treat this issue differently, hence LEGO enjoys some trademark protection even for the purely functional elements.

Apparently, LEGO's view is that a patent should be valid as long as the company holding the patent continues to manufacture the product, and tends to be pretty aggressive about it. The irony they they effectively violated the patents of the original inventor is completely lost on them.

Posting anonymously because I've had previous run-ins with LEGO's lawyers.

Translation (5, Informative)

KasperMeerts (1305097) | about 6 years ago | (#25735359)

Finally, I knew all this Dutch my parents learned me would pay off! This had better give me some free karma.

Lego loses it's unique right to make Lego blocks

Luxemburg - It'll be hard to swallow for the Danish manufacturer Lego now that the European Court of Justice has decided Wednesday that everyone can make a block that fits the original legoblock.

Lego had gone to the European Court of Justice battling against the Canadian competitor Mega Brands, who has brought a block on the market that fits Lego's. The Court ruled today that the design of Lego is not protected by European trademark and that there can be no such thing as an unique right.

The Lego block was invented in 1932 by Ole Kirk Christiansen in the Danish city Billund. The name LEGO is derived from the Danish words "LE GOdt" (play good). Later the word appeared the word could be interpreted in Latin as "I gather" (or 'I choose' or 'I read').

LEGO is a Danish toy manufacturer that became famous because of the colored plastic blocks. The blocks are sold under the name "Lego"; that way they refer not only to the manufacturer, but it also became a generic brand. The manufacturer is the biggest toy manufacturer in Europe with a revenue of 7823 billion Danish Krone ( 1049 billion Euro or 1337 billion dollars ) in 2006. Meanwhile, LEGO has won the price "Toy of the Century" twice.

The LEGO Group is the fifth biggest toy manufacturer in the world.

Leet-speaking (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25735577)

The manufacturer is the biggest toy manufacturer in Europe with a revenue of 7823 billion Danish Krone ( 1049 billion Euro or 1337 billion dollars ) in 2006.

1337 billion dollars?

Now that's some leet amount of money, eh?

Re:Translation (1)

Michael O-P (31524) | about 6 years ago | (#25735597)

Thank you for making this readily readable, since most of us don't speak freaky-deaky Dutch.

Fitted? (2, Funny)

fucket (1256188) | about 6 years ago | (#25735361)

Fitted? Really?

Not Likely (1)

hardburn (141468) | about 6 years ago | (#25735389)

Lego is a high-quality product. There have been knockoffs out there for a while, but Lego holds dominant because they have an excelent recipie for the plastic (held as a trade secret) and are fit to extremely tight tolerances. They might be more expensive than Megablocks, but they're worth it.

Legos for adults (1)

RemoWilliams84 (1348761) | about 6 years ago | (#25735395)

Finally, someone can start making those adult themed legos! I can finally make that square boobed (and whatever else females have) lego robot I've always dreamed of.

This story is completely wrong. (5, Informative)

amorsen (7485) | about 6 years ago | (#25735401)

Lego hasn't had a monopoly on the bricks for decades. (They have a monopoly on making bricks that actually work, but that's not for legal reasons, that's just because their competitors are incompetent.)

Lego has used a red 2x4 Lego brick in advertisements, and they believed that this particular brick could be used as a trademarked "logo". The European Department of Justice decided that the brick picture is too generic to be trademarked. The decision will be appealed.

So all it means is that competitors are allowed to put that particular brick in their advertisements and on their boxes. They already had the right to produce the brick.

Finally! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25735429)

Now I can make big custom LEGO blocks filled with isolating material to build my dreamhouse and change the floorplan whenever I feel like it.

Chinese Lego (2, Interesting)

bshensky (110723) | about 6 years ago | (#25735435)

http://www.mocpages.com/moc.php/18382

Probably won't help with the pirates. Real pirates!

Danish!=Dutch (1)

avoiceinthewildernes (620182) | about 6 years ago | (#25735441)

Danish!=Dutch

Betta Bilda? (1)

tetranz (446973) | about 6 years ago | (#25735453)

When I was a kid in New Zealand, we had something called Betta Bilda which was very similar to Lego.

It's a somewaht unique case and sad really (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25735495)

I know we're supposed to think whatever benefits the consumer is good but Legos is an unusual situation. They have a company built on a unique product. They spent many years promoting the product and were very successful doing it. Now anyone can produce their product and use their name since it's now a generic term, Lego. Ultimately whoever can produce them the cheapest will win and it's highly unlikely Lego will survive. The competing companies will even benefit from free advertising since Lego company advertising will effectively promote companies that simply call their product Legos. I think the courts signed the company's death warrant. In the end all that will be left are companies making cheap knock offs. Where this doesn't benefit consumers is the knock off companies aren't innovators they are in effect parasites feeding off the creations of others. If creation and innovation dies because of a lack of market protections then the consumer looses. It may mean cheap crap but ultimately it'll just mean a lot of crap available. Already with small business your only real protection are lawyers and if you can't aford them you are defenseless. You can spend a lifetime creating a unique product only to have it knocked off in less than a year. It'll cost you all your profits to defend your rights against the parasites and in the end you'll probably have to file Chapter 11. Without protections the parasites will always win.

No, not Hemos (1)

CaptainOfSpray (1229754) | about 6 years ago | (#25735503)

at long last I can build a life sized [Hemos] Tux statue for my office
FTFY

D&D Insider ad (1)

CmdrPorno (115048) | about 6 years ago | (#25735533)

"If true, hopefully this will open doors for people interested in inexpensive bulk purchase of bricks of specific sizes and colors."

Given the D&D Insider Magazine ad at the top of the Slashdot discussion page, I'm guessing that a girlfriend-shaped and colored block would sell very well.

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