Canadian Plastics

Landmark legal decision in China protects Lego against copiers

Plastic toy manufacturer Lego Co. recently won an important court case in China that could open the door for compan...

January 27, 2003   Canadian Plastics

Plastic toy manufacturer Lego Co. recently won an important court case in China that could open the door for companies to protect themselves against unauthorized product copies.
This landmark case is the first time that the Chinese legal system has delivered a judgement that confirms protection of industrial design/applied art. In addition, according to Lego, the judgement makes it clear that it is possible to register design protection and simultaneously obtain copyright protection in the Chinese courts.
In 1999, Lego instigate legal proceedings against a Chinese company for having copied Lego elements. Two courts have now ruled that copyright exists, and has been infringed by some of the elements in question. The guilty party has been ordered to turn over the relevant molding equipment so it can be destroyed.
Lego also took action to protect its brand at the Hong Kong Toys & Games Fair in early January. Threatening court action, employees from Lego Co.’s legal department and Lego Hong Kong forced many dealers at the fair to remove copies of Lego products from their shelves.
Henrik G. Jacobsen, one of the company’s legal experts, described the scene: “We found blatant imitations or our products at 12 stands and a total of almost 100 products were removed. At one particular stand no fewer than 55 products were taken off the exhibitor’s shelves.”
Jacobsen reports that in general the product copying seemed to be well organized; only in a handful of cases were the dealers not fully aware they were infringing on trademark legislation and copyright.
According to Jacobsen, “The past six months has seen a huge growth in the copy products, in particular from Asia. Our success with our Lego Harry Potter series immediately produced many Harry Potter imitation products.”
Th piracy issue is not limited to toys. The International Intellectual Property Alliance, comprised of six U.S. trade associations, estimates the value of U.S. trade losses due to copyright piracy in China is US$1.9 billion. The IIPA estimates focus on motion pictures, music, software and books.


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