29 July 2019CopyrightSaman Javed

Lego wins copyright dispute against British competitor

Danish toy maker  Lego has won a US copyright infringement suit against a British competitor.

In a judgment on Thursday, July 25, the  US District Court for the District of Connecticut found that figurines sold by  Best-Lock Construction Toys infringed a number of Lego’s US copyright registrations, which it has owned since 1994.

While the court largely ruled in favour of Lego, it was undecided on Best Lock’s equitable estoppel defence, which it said would be adjudicated at a plenary bench trial at a later date.

The dispute dates to 2011, when Lego sued Best-Lock for producing and selling allegedly infringing minifigurines.

It said that Best-Lock’s advertisements of its minifigurines had highlighted the “well-known interchangeability of Best-Lock figures and their body parts with Lego's”.

In its judgment, the court said Best-Lock had failed to provide evidence to show that Lego’s copyright registrations are invalid or unreliable. It deemed the UK-based company’s argument that the registrations are invalid because “certain design elements in question are functional” as “unavailing”.

The court said that while certain elements of the logo minifigures are indeed functional, the mere fact that some elements are functional does not render the work uncopyrightable.

It also said it is “beyond dispute” that Best-Lock had access to Lego’s copyrighted work.

The court referred to evidence of a 2012 interview of Best-Lock’s CEO, in which he said that “as a child growing up in Germany he had admired Lego toys but later discovered, as a young father in England, that

Lego itself had copied ‘the bricks invented by a British psychologist in the 1940s’”.

The court found that the best-Lock’s products are “not just probatively similar” to Lego’s, but “indistinguishable”.

“A comparison of the works makes clear that Best-Lock has copied protectable, expressive elements that are original to Lego,” it added.

In its defence, Best-Lock argued that while it had been selling its toys in the US for years beforehand, Lego only filed a lawsuit against it in the US after US Customs and Border Protection seized a series of shipments of Best-Lock’s toy blocks and minifigures.

US Customs and Border Protection said it had carried out the seizures because they infringed Lego’s copyright.

“Lego had not previously attempted to stop Best-Lock's sale of its blocks and figures in the US, and had not issued any warning or given Best-Lock any notice that it believed Best-Lock's minifigures infringed any Lego copyrights,” the filing said.

Additionally, it said Lego’s direct communications with Best-Lock abroad misled Best-Lock into believing that Lego would not sue the company in the US.

Did you enjoy reading this story?  Sign up to our free daily newsletters and get stories like this sent straight to your inbox.

Today's top stories:

Exclusive data visualisation: Samsung leads the way in patent filings

Copyright protection of military reports is national issue, CJEU says

CJEU hands win to media outlets in Spiegel Online ruling

US lawmakers target patent diversity gap

Already registered?

Login to your account

To request a FREE 2-week trial subscription, please signup.
NOTE - this can take up to 48hrs to be approved.

Two Weeks Free Trial

For multi-user price options, or to check if your company has an existing subscription that we can add you to for FREE, please email Adrian Tapping at

More on this story

11 June 2019   Lego is suing an American manufacturer of child educational materials over figurines which the toymaker says infringe its trademarks and copyright.
29 April 2019   Police in China have arrested four suspects allegedly part of a counterfeit ring which produced $30 million worth of counterfeit Lego.