LEGO wins important lawsuit in China after fighting for years with competitors producing toys that are similar to the iconic LEGO bricks.
The Supreme Court in Beijing ruled in July 2017 in a case that the LEGO logo and LEGO name in Chinese is well-known trademarks in China. The decision is important for LEGO who have invested a lot in raising awareness of the LEGO brand and LEGO products among Chinese consumers. The dissemination of LEGO’s brand and products helps to reduce the risk of consumer confusion or deceived. At the same time, widespread awareness of LEGO’s logo and products also strengthens LEGO’s legal position to act when their trademarks are infringed.
LEGO Friends versus BELA Friends
In September 2017, the LEGO Group was upheld by the China Shantou Intermediate People’s Court in a case involving certain BELA brand products. BELA was charged with violating LEGO IP rights. The court found that the manufacture and sale of the BELA products constitutes an infringement and unfair competition. The case was brought against two Chinese companies that have manufactured and sold close-range imitations of LEGO products under the name BELA Friends. The court ruling will take effect from November 2017, after which the two Chinese companies will cease copying LEGO’s packaging and logos going forward, in the event of a violation of LEGO’s IP rights.
According to court was BELA Friends products and their packaging too close to LEGO’s product line LEGO Friends. The Chinese product appears as if it is a LEGO product. In this way, consumers may be misled into believing that they are actually buying a LEGO product.
First victory in China
The court also ruled that the LEGO Group is protected under the Chinese Competition Act against unfair competition as to the distinctive and unique appearance LEGO products have across their product lines, with this distinctive appearance aimed at ensuring that the consumer can immediately recognize and link products for the LEGO Group.
This is the first time that LEGO has led and won a case based on unfair competition against manufacturers in China.
“We are pleased with the decision of the Shantou Intermediate People’s Court. We see it as evidence of the continued focus of Chinese authorities and courts on properly enforcing and securing intellectual property rights. We believe it is important for the continued positive development of the business conditions that all companies operating in China are subject to, ”says Vice President, Legal Affairs of the LEGO Group Peter Thorslund Kjær, adding“ We continue to take the necessary steps to ensure that parents and children are able to buy toys on an informed basis and that they are not being led by irresponsible companies trying to make products that appear to be something they are not ”.
The LEGO Group actively protects its trademarks globally and brings more cases to the courts every year to ensure that consumers can always rely on products bearing the LEGO logo or having the distinctive LEGO design are also genuine LEGO products.
Particularly well-known brands can tempt others to utilize the same or similar brands. This exploitation can be detrimental to the well-known trademark because the brand can be diluted and the brand may lose some of its goodwill. The protection as well-known trademarks in assumes that it is documented that there is extensive knowledge of the trademark within the relevant circulation.