Certainly not friends: LEGO Group successful in China

Thursday 11th January 2018

LEGO Group has successfully brought a copyright claim against two Chinese companies for manufacturing and selling products that were almost identical to its LEGO Friends range of building blocks. 

LEGO Group has, for the first time, succeeded in bringing a copyright claim in China in relation to its famous LEGO brand. It follows a finding in July 2017 that the LEGO logo and LEGO name in Chinese are well-known trade marks in China. The case is a significant victory for LEGO Group, which faces a constant threat from counterfeit products originating in China.

In the copyright case, LEGO Group sued two Chinese companies for manufacturing and selling products that were almost identical to its LEGO Friends range of building blocks. In particular, LEGO Group claimed that the logo and the packaging used by the Chinese companies constituted infringement of the copyright in LEGO Group’s logo and packaging. The court agreed.

Although the LEGO product below doesn’t feature a Chinese logo, to illustrate just how similar the products look we have placed a LEGO Friends product (left) alongside a BELA Friends product (right). 




The court also found that the LEGO Friends products enjoyed protection under the unfair competition laws in China, because of the distinctive packaging which consumers immediately recognise as originating from LEGO Group. This finding, together with the well-known status of the LEGO name and logo may assist LEGO Group in similar cases in the future.

Presumably, LEGO Group will now dial up its pursuit of Chinese-based counterfeiters. It will be interesting to see what success LEGO Group enjoys against less obvious copies of its products.

The decision also comes at a good time for LEGO Group. China has recently vowed to increase protections for owners of intellectual property rights in its territory including for internet based copyright infringement.

China has also pledged to crack down on the theft of commercial trade secrets of overseas companies. This comes as the United States recently charged three Chinese nationals (associated with the Chinese state) for stealing confidential information belonging to Siemens AG, Trimble and Moody’s Analytics. How China will address these issues is something we will be following closely.

For information on how to protect your intellectual property in China, see our China Desk page or contact one of our team today. 

This article is intended to summarise potentially complicated legal issues, and is not intended to be a substitute for individual legal advice. If you would like further information, please contact a Baldwins representative.

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