Los Angeles District Court: Canadian Toymaker Sues Lego For Trademark Infringement

By Joseph Mandour on January 24, 2012

lego-200x149 Los Angeles – In a long-running trademark infringement battle over the rights to the shape of interlocking bricks in toy construction sets, Mega Brands Inc. of Canada has filed yet another action against the Lego Group.

According to the action, filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, the Montreal-based Mega Brands is seeking to invalidate Lego’s trademark rights to the designs. In a recent news release, the Canadian toymaker said it is also seeking unspecified “other remedies.”

The recent court action was apparently prompted when the United States Customs and Border Protection agency advised Mega Brands that it “intends to restrict the importation of certain of its products which have been sold in the U.S. for over twenty years,” a spokesperson for the company said in a statement. When asked about the ongoing trademark dispute, Mega Brands stated that it is simply challenging Lego’s attempts to use United States trademark laws to protect its well-known plastic mini-bricks used by children to construct mechanical models.

According to Mega Brand’s complaint, Lego’s interlocking block patents expired more than twenty years ago, prompting courts in several other countries to rule against its claims that its famous toy bricks are unique and protected and that no other company can make toy blocks using the same eight-knob pattern.

“Courts around the world, including the United States, have ruled against its attempts to use trademark law for functional elements,” a spokesperson for Mega Brands said.

The Canadian company, which manufacturers and markets its own brand of interlocking bricks called Mega Bloks, says that it will seek a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction from the court to ensure that its Mega Bloks sold in the United States are not affected by Lego’s trademark.

The Denmark-based Lego Group has been fighting off competition to manufacture and sell the plastic bricks from Mega Brands for years. Initially designed by Danish carpenter Ole Kirk Christiansen, the plastic building blocks went on to become the company’s flagship product and are still enjoyed by children around the world. The company’s legal troubles began in 1978, when it lost patent protection on the toy bricks, however it has continued to assert its legal rights using trademark laws.

Lego’s claim that its has exclusive rights to the interlocking toy brick technology has been routinely dismissed by courts in Canada, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, and Spain. Furthermore, in September 2010, the European Court of Justice denied Lego’s attempts to use trademark laws to protect the shape of its multi-colored building blocks.

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