May 7

The LEPIN case or how LEGO defends its brands


The LEPIN case or how LEGO defends its brands


The LEGO Group was founded in 1932 and the iconic brick recently celebrated its 50th anniversary (indeed, the first LEGO brick was marketed in 1958). Yet it hasn't aged a day. It was even named the world's most expensive toy brand in 2017.. In terms of sales, the LEGO Group is the world's third largest toy manufacturer.

But this success is not without counterpart. LEGO is constantly fighting against more or less successful imitations. In recent years, LEGO has deployed its forces against Chinese counterfeiters, and has particularly attacked the "LEPIN" brand, owned by the Longjun Toys group.


LEPIN: an assumed counterfeit of LEGO products

The LEPIN brand is well known to fans of building bricks. Indeed, it markets products almost identical to the original ones, in very similar packaging:


In 2016, the LEGO Group decided to act at the source, by suing the Longjun Toys company and the LEPIN brand in the Chinese courts. The judges recognized that LEPIN was confusing with the LEGO trademark. The Court thus sanctioned the imitation of the logo (which reproduced the graphic codes of the original trademark) but also the imitation of the ranges. LEPIN cannot use LEGO visuals to market its products. On the other hand, the decision does not concern the content of the boxes. Consumers who purchase LEPIN products continue to receive their building kits, but without instructions or packaging.


LEGO v. LEPIN: The battle continues outside China

In June 2017, Longjun Toys will register the LEPIN brand in the United Kingdom. The trademark is registered in semi-figurative form, in black and white, surmounted by two Chinese characters. The LEGO Group opposed the registration, claiming in particular that it infringed its earlier European trademark. LEGO also provided significant evidence, some of which came from the customer service department, highlighting the confusion that existed among certain consumers.

Longjun Toys challenged LEGO's arguments. In particular, the company made a comparison of the two terms. It argued that LEPIN was a transliteration of the two Chinese characters that appear above it in the mark: THE "happy; cheerful" and PIN "spell; piece". Whereas the word "lego" comes from the abbreviation of a Danish expression "leg godt" which means "to play well".

Finally, the UK Intellectual Property Office (UKIPO) ruled in favour of LEGO. The decision was based in particular on the fact that the two marks concerned identical goods and that there were strong structural similarities between the marks in question. The reputation of the mark LEGO and its strong distinctive character also played a role in the UKIPO decision.



Despite its two successful battles, LEGO has not yet stopped fighting against Longjun Toys. Indeed, at the end of April 2019, the Chinese authorities seized nearly 630,000 bricks from the LEPIN factory in Shenzhen, worth around 30 million dollars. This spectacular seizure is part of a global policy that China is pursuing against counterfeiting in order to maintain cordial trade relations with the United States and Europe.

Will this seizure mark the end of the LEPIN adventure? Time will tell. In the meantime, LEGO has already started to open official stores in China.


China, conflict, Counterfeit, Lego, Lepin, trademark, well-known trademark

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