Clone Brands' Legitimacy - Part 1
I am sure most of us respect copyrights, trademarks, intellectual property, patents, licensing rights and any other rights. We at Brick Diversity are very clear on our commitment to all of these rights, because of our general sense of right and wrong, our standards of being on the right side of the law, for our customers and of course for our love of the leader and pioneer in the market, LEGO®. This is the first in series of posts that try to shed a bit of a light on this subject to help us and you to understand the choices we face when selecting a brick set.
As I write this, I can imagine there will be some clear demarcation between what is legal and what is not legal, and in some cases what is moral and immoral. I am also sure we will find a lot of grey areas, where each person will have to make their own choice.
Before we go much further though, let's quickly state what we understand to be the current legal stand on the matter.
LEGO does not hold Trademark rights for its bricks. The European Court of Justice ruled so in September 2010, on the basis that the patent had long expired and too old to be reapplied. (source: BBC, Info-Curio).
At the simplest level that means manufacturers can re-create same type of toy bricks as LEGO does without breaking any laws.
NOTE: That is only in regards to the bricks, and I am yet to understand fully if there is any variations on that (such as the mini-figures which no one else seems to be making totally the same way as LEGO). All of the set design, the art, and of course the licensing deals are still very much protected under the law.
The next basic question after understanding you are not buying product from a manufacturer that is breaking the law, must be the moral one.
Should you support those companies? Are you betraying LEGO if you buy different products?
The short answer is of course that everyone has to do what they think is right!
Our believe at Brick Diversity is that we should absolutely be buying bricks from other makers, as well as from LEGO.
Capitalism should benefit both seller and buyer. There is no benefit in providing a monopoly to any single maker, not even for that company. LEGO bricks were protected for almost half a century, and now it is time for others to play as well.
Think about all the inventions during the last century. Do we only buy Levi Strauss Jeans? All invention run their course as being owned by individual or individual organisation.
Why is it so hard then?
The above seems pretty straight forward, but once you look under the hood, it isn't so.
- Some Adult Fans of LEGO (AFOL) have a strong opinions about this, making the mention of non-LEGO brands a Taboo. That might get in the way of an open discussion on the subject.
- Some non-LEGO brands in the past (and even now) have done the market a disservice with cloning (stealing) designs.
- The quality in the past has also been so terrible that rightly so anyone in the know advised against buying non-LEGO brands.
- And finally, there are so many grey areas and so many players that it is very difficult for regular consumer to purchase a product from a non-LEGO brand knowing what they are getting and if it is legal/moral or not.
In the following posts on this subject, I will explore this further. Where should the consumer draw the line? Why is it ok to love LEGO and still purchase non-LEGO brands? Should we be referring to these companies as clone-brands? Which non-LEGO brands are doing innovative things? What is the state of their design, and the rights they hold for those from AFOLs?
These posts will be evolving, but if any portion of a published post is edited later, a note will be added at the end of the post to highlight that.
Feel free to comment, in a constructive way. Would love to hear what I should include in this thought exercise. Rude or non-relevant comments will of course be removed.