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Mega Bloks Wins Supreme Court Battle Against Lego

Zonk posted more than 8 years ago | from the tiny-pegs-of-justice dept.

Toys 254

saskboy writes "Canada's highest court ruled unanimously Thursday that Mega Bloks can continue to sell their Lego styled stackable blocks in Canada. CBC writes, 'The Supreme Court of Canada decision marks the end of a long-running trademark battle between the Montreal-based Mega Bloks and Denmark's Lego.'"

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Score One for Interoperability (4, Interesting)

Kelson (129150) | more than 8 years ago | (#14057364)

I remember when I was a kid I had a ton of Legos, including some of the larger Duplo blocks left over from when I was *really* young. At one point my brother and I picked up a set of Tyco blocks (some dinosaur mecha, if I remember right). What was interesting about it was that the blocks and pegs were the same size, so they could connect with Legos, but the flat pieces were half the thickness of a normal piece instead of one-third. That made for some interesting possibilities.

There was also a set of Tic-Tac-style candies (I forget the name -- Ipso or something like that) that we found at some store that came in square plastic boxes with pegs on two edges and holes on the other. Each edge was exactly like the top or bottom of an 8x2 Lego piece. We'd use them to build walls or base plates. I never saw them anywhere else, so I assumed they were discontinued pretty quickly, whether Lego put pressure on them or they just didn't catch on.

We'd mix and match those different brands of blocks all the time. Having the other companies' blocks never stopped us from buying more Legos.

1/2 versus 1/3 (3, Interesting)

Alaren (682568) | more than 8 years ago | (#14057523)

The thing I always liked about Lego's "1/3" flat pieces over Tyco's "1/2" pieces was that the distance between bumps is the same as the thickness of the flat pieces. So you could make (admittedly delicate) connections that effectively changed the direction of the bumps and enabled more versatile 3-d design.

That said, Tyco was the only other "interoperable" company with decent products... I'm glad Megablocks won this one (for legal reasons) but to this day, they remain inferior to Lego in terms of how well the blocks stay together.

Re:1/2 versus 1/3 (2, Interesting)

Yartrebo (690383) | more than 8 years ago | (#14057747)

Yeah, but at least having some competition has reigned in the price. I was surprised when I was shopping this year to see that the nominal prices of LEGO blocks are cheaper than when I was a kid (that's not counting for inflation) and the Mega Blocks are even cheaper.

This seems to be the trend with all toys. Generic or interchangable toys (like building blocks) are cheaper, while branded or IP-based toys (video games, action figures from TV shows, etc) keep getting pricier. My guess is that it's based to more effective marketing (improved advertisements and more extensive use of class-based marketing and pricing are the main changes I've noticed).

Re:Score One for Interoperability (1)

glyph42 (315631) | more than 8 years ago | (#14057562)

Those orange tic-tac boxes were the best! Great for the outermost walls of my lego fortresses. And you could put lego men's heads inside the little square hole in the corner!

Re:Score One for Interoperability (3, Interesting)

Mattcelt (454751) | more than 8 years ago | (#14057673)

The candies are still around - I bought some a few months ago in North Carolina. I don't know if they still click with Legos, but they can be built on their own for sure. (Might be a different brand, I don't know.)

What I remember about the Tyco blocks is that while they technically did intermingle with real Legos, for some reason they did not hold the connections between blocks well at all. I remember several times getting very frustrated with the Tyco blocks because my creations would fall apart wherever I had used them. I eventually (at 9 or 10 years old) purged my Lego collection of any Tycos whatsoever and never bought them again. To this day that collection is Lego-brand only.

They may have one the legal battle... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14057366)

But their brand name is still rubbish. :-(

Oh no! (5, Informative)

slimey_limey (655670) | more than 8 years ago | (#14057376)

I always hated Mega Bloks. They are made out of the cheapest plastic, and don't stay together. Even though they may have needed to win (legally) they shouldn't have (quality-wise).

Re:Oh no! (1)

dada21 (163177) | more than 8 years ago | (#14057424)

Right. Which is why the market is the best judge.

Re:Oh no! (3, Insightful)

Fallingcow (213461) | more than 8 years ago | (#14057490)

You're exactly right. The damn things fall apart if you try to build anything big with them.

I had some Mega Bloks dinosaur thing when I was little. I never managed to build it all the way, because it would fall apart any time more than 1/3 of the blocks were stuck together at once. What a piece of crap.

Legos are way better. I wish they'd re-make some of their classic sets, like some of the old Pirate and Castle ones. That, and not charge 10,000% markup. $100 for an 18-inch-long lego boat? Madness.

Re:Oh no! (4, Funny)

slideroll (901934) | more than 8 years ago | (#14057553)

Remember, it's colder in Canada, so the blocks contract. That way they stay together better. Also, Canadian children often spit on them to freeze the joints together.

Re:Oh no! (2, Interesting)

v1 (525388) | more than 8 years ago | (#14057694)

I had a huge box full of legos when I was a kid. The 2x4 bricks and the 2x12/2x14 were by far the most useful. Did you know you can build a functional tumbler locked storage box that requires a lego key to open? (if you glued the blocks together, you wouldn't get in without either the key or a torch)

Years later I bought a set of knock-off blocks to play around with, and was sorely disappointed in the difference in quality. The bricks would sometimes stick, sometimes not, and sometimes you'd need two pair of pliers to separate them. Stacking bricks, the sides would be smooth and even from block to block with Legos; the knock-offs were jagged. Couldn't build a lock with them because the bricks would catch or jam on bricks next to them because of the crummy tolerances.

But despite all that, patents need to expire after the artist/creator has had an opportunity to recoup their investment of creativity. Lego has certainly gotten their nickel back and then some, time to open the market.

Re:Oh no! (1)

dslauson (914147) | more than 8 years ago | (#14057731)

"Even though they may have needed to win (legally) they shouldn't have (quality-wise)."
Well, yeah, Mega Bloks suck compared to Legos, but obviously a court case like this shouldn't take sheer awesomeness into consideration. If it did, I'd become a trial lawyer. Ha!

Seriously, though, that part of it gets sorted out by the market, which is why there's an entire aisle of Legos in my local Target, and I'm not sure if they even stock Mega Bloks anymore.

Re:Oh no! (1)

Ced_Ex (789138) | more than 8 years ago | (#14057771)

I always hated Mega Bloks. They are made out of the cheapest plastic, and don't stay together. Even though they may have needed to win (legally) they shouldn't have (quality-wise).

Well, the only other option you have is LEGO, and it completely sucked when you get two flat LEGO pieces stuck together. That frustrated my parents to no end as they had to get a razor blade to pry the two pieces apart.

Re:Oh no! (1)

Bootvis (913169) | more than 8 years ago | (#14057844)

There are tricks for that situation. But I can't remember them though. Besides most of them cost you your fingernails.

Re:Oh no! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14058039)

there is a tool for that... [ebay.com]

Insert EOLAS joke here (1)

Orrin Bloquy (898571) | more than 8 years ago | (#14057381)

Seriously, good for Mega Bloks. LEGO is cool but the notion of preventing someone from manufacturing toys that play with your toys is cruel.

Next up... (5, Funny)

OakDragon (885217) | more than 8 years ago | (#14057383)

...Microsoft and Amazon race to patent 'bumps on blocks.'

Re:Next up... (1)

SirWhoopass (108232) | more than 8 years ago | (#14057618)

Microsoft and Amazon race to patent 'bumps on blocks'.

Except that they're too late. "Toy Building Brick", US Patent #3,005,282 issued to G.K. Christiansen (assigned to Lego) in 1964.

"Blocks adapted to be connected together by means of projections extending from the faces of the elements". [uspto.gov]

Which is one of the reasons this suit was lost. The court found that Lego's patents had expired and that they couldn't use trademark law to protect the design of their blocks.

Dump all non-physical property rights. (4, Interesting)

dada21 (163177) | more than 8 years ago | (#14057386)


I'm always here decrying the value is striking copyright, patents and trademark rights. At the most basic, they're a way to gain government's monopoly on force for yourself.

Legos. Plastic bricks. The value in their logo is held up by showing consumers that Lego makes the most consistent blocks, with the easiest instructions and with the most fun creations. The State-granted monopoly that gave Lego sole use of the design isn't the power behind the brand.

I'd normally get replies saying "Without protections, no one would write music/invent/make plastic blocks!!!" But this is not true.

If you open a restaurant, do you get a monopoly for running a restaurant in your area? Isn't it wrong for someone to open a restaurant in a new community, build a customer base for years and then have some whipper-snapper open a new restaurant across the street and steal your customers?

I own retail stores (board sports and paintball). It costs about $25 in marketing to get a new customer into the sport and into my store. At least yearly I have someone see our good fortune and open a few miles away. They underprice me, steal some business and then go bankrupt and sell everything at half price. In 3 years I've outlived 7 such competitors.

Why is my time (or my managers' time) building my product different than a song writer or a book writer? It isn't. Yet they're legally protected with monopoly powers.

Trademark (and copyright) is bunk. Freedom means the freedom to compete.

Create a product. If it's copied easily, find a way to make yours better.

Re:Dump all non-physical property rights. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14057422)

Umm... were it not for trademark law, a guy on the street could put swamp water in a bottle, call it Pepsi, and sell it to you. And you wouldn't know anything different until you had bought it.

While trademarks can certainly be misused, they do their fair share to protect the consumer.

Re:Dump all non-physical property rights. (1)

dada21 (163177) | more than 8 years ago | (#14057471)

You buy your Pepsi on the cit streets?

I buy it from Albertson's or Target. They're the people who confirm my Pepsi is real (some Indian and Mexican stores sell fakes). They also make sure my lamps are UL tested and that my toilet paper isn't sand paper.

The market protects Pepsi. Not a law.

Re:Dump all non-physical property rights. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14057648)

Nah, a law does. Where I live, Safeway would sell it's own version of Pepsi in a second - and make it look just like original Pepsi - if they could get away with it. They do it already with a ton of their own-brand stuff - eg. make it look like the name-brand competitor they're trying to compete against. Think you can trust a big corporation to do the right thing? Where have you been living?

Re:Dump all non-physical property rights. (1)

Lehk228 (705449) | more than 8 years ago | (#14057681)

how do you know that Albertsons or Taret is run by the real company without trademark law? do you want digitally signed certs to be sent by a kiosk as you enter the store to make sure or what?

Re:Dump all non-physical property rights. (0, Redundant)

doubledoh (864468) | more than 8 years ago | (#14057997)

When and if scamsters attempt to pierce any market, 3rd party organizations like Consumer Reports or Better Business Bureau will quickly report the scams--not to mention the millions of blogs and independant media websites that snap at the chance to boo-hoo bad products (iPod Nano anyone?).

No one is arguing that cheats don't exist, it's just that we freedom loving folks are arguing that the free market and free speech are much more efficient mechanisms for protecting consumers against fraud. And besides, at the end of the day, as far as I'm concerned, it's buyer beware. I'd rather have the freedom to choose, than have some big-brother entity stamp everything with their approval (after a long beauracratic process--and of course a fee).

Yeah! (1, Flamebait)

jfengel (409917) | more than 8 years ago | (#14057508)

We should also dump domain name registration. Just because that nerd Bezos pays a bunch of jerks eleven bucks a year, what gives him the right to the name Amazon? He gets the name amazon.com as his intellectual property, and I get squat. He should open it up to competition.

Your building a name (3, Insightful)

everphilski (877346) | more than 8 years ago | (#14057547)

But your selling other people's products. Your 'product' is 'joe's sports equiptment store' or whatever. Now if another store comes in town called 'joe's sports equiptment store', then you've got a case. Again, the difference is, you are not creating you are reselling. Very distinct from this case where you have MegaBlocks making bricks with bumps, and Legos making bricks with bumps, and the question being if the bumps infringe on the image. (go back to my second sentance, your parallel would be another company called joe's...)

-everphilski-

Re:Your building a name (1)

Berserk CEO (929265) | more than 8 years ago | (#14058069)

Again, the difference is, you are not creating you are reselling.

But with slight modifications the restaurant analogy works, because they have a product. So should a receipe for a pizza be allowed to be patented? What would a pizza cost if the restaurant needed to pay royalties to the inventor? What if the inventor decided that his pizza receipts would only be allowed to be used in a certain chain of restaurants? Would that benefit the society? Which is what the patents are supposed to do: promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts.

I'm personally not totally opposing the idea of patents. But I'm critical towards them. They might be useful to the society in some rare cases, but definitely not in the software business.

Re:Dump all non-physical property rights. (1)

ralph1 (900228) | more than 8 years ago | (#14057552)

Its ok if they expire in 20 years. But ala disney they keep extending it somehow.
I never buy disney product not even videos for the kids.

Everyone has a vote with there dollars.

Re:Dump all non-physical property rights. (2, Insightful)

sedyn (880034) | more than 8 years ago | (#14057587)

"Create a product. If it's copied easily, find a way to make yours better."

That's how I feel about the issue as far as software is concerned.

But, what if your creation can be reverse engineered somewhat easily, and adding new properties is difficult?

Don't get me wrong, I don't like the idea of not being able to do something because someone did it first (especially when it happened decades before I was born and therefore I didn't have a chance to make it). But I still think some, limited, form of protection is needed.

Re:Dump all non-physical property rights. (1)

semper (187862) | more than 8 years ago | (#14057596)

The problem with your argument is what happens when someone decides to open a store near yours with the same name and logo as yours? Now they are competing merchendise and cashing in on your advertising and good name. This is the sort of thing that Trademark Law is meant to protect against.

I would agree that most, if not all, Patent and Copyright protection is garbage, but Trademark protection protects only your name and image.

Re:Dump all non-physical property rights. (1)

dada21 (163177) | more than 8 years ago | (#14057644)

Our name and our logo is not us.

Are we cheaper? No.

Are we better stocked? No.

Are we located in the best spot? No.

We have the best service and most knowledgable staff. Name and logo is nothing.

Our sign says "Paintball" not our logo. I welcome my competition to use my name.

Re:Dump all non-physical property rights. (1)

Jeff DeMaagd (2015) | more than 8 years ago | (#14057702)

It's quite difficult to dump trademarks, copyrights and patents. I doubt it would happen in the US because it would require a constitutional amendment.

I don't believe your retail or restaurant analogy fits. I don't believe that the market can fix all problems, and I don't believe that government can fix all problems. I would personally like some form of government protection if some competitor used my name and somehow managed to convinced the sheep that they are the real thing, and later ruining my reputation.

Also, the fact that something can be abused doesn't mean that thing should be dumped altogether.

Re:Dump all non-physical property rights. (1)

cecom (698048) | more than 8 years ago | (#14057833)

Hmmmm. Interesting. Where is your store located ? I am thinking of opening one myself ... ;-)

Re:Dump all non-physical property rights. (1)

TCQuad (537187) | more than 8 years ago | (#14057862)

Legos. Plastic bricks. The value in their logo is held up by showing consumers that Lego makes the most consistent blocks, with the easiest instructions and with the most fun creations.

Clearly, you never had grandparents who thought the one who could create the biggest pile of plastic toys on a budget won.

Re:Dump all non-physical property rights. (1)

ClearlyPennsylvania (918245) | more than 8 years ago | (#14057892)

I disagree. Just because something can be copied easily doesn't mean that the invention process was trivial. Let's look at this mathematically: Currently: Expected profits = (odds of success) * (sales of Foo if successful) - costs to develop Foo Without protections, if you invent Foo: Expected profits = (odds of success) * ( [sales of Foo is successful ] / [companies copy & producing Foo]) - costs to develop Foo Without protections, if you don't invent Foo: Expected profits = (odds of success) * ( [sales of Foo is successful ] / [companies copy & producing Foo]) Clearly, without protections, you're better off NOT inventing Foo and just copying another company when they do. After all, why pay the development costs yourself if you can just cheat? And thus, no one invents stuff. The difference between an actual invention of Foo and your store is that another store can't just lower their costs by copying you. But, in fact, if your store were a restaurant and someone stole your recipes, then yes, you would be protected.

relevant quote from my rejected submission: (5, Insightful)

temojen (678985) | more than 8 years ago | (#14057390)

"Trademark law should not be used to perpetuate monopoly rights enjoyed under now-expired patents," the Supreme Court says.

Also: (1)

temojen (678985) | more than 8 years ago | (#14057404)

"purely functional" features, such as the well-known geometrical pattern of raised studs on the top of the bricks, could not be the basis of a trademark.

Re:Also: (1)

cortana (588495) | more than 8 years ago | (#14057767)

If you look closely at the bumps, I believe they have a tiny LEGO logo etched onto them. :)

Re:Also: (2)

temojen (678985) | more than 8 years ago | (#14057962)

Not the Mega Bloks ones.

Re:Also: (2, Insightful)

idontgno (624372) | more than 8 years ago | (#14058035)

If you look closely at the bumps, I believe they have a tiny LEGO logo etched onto them.

What, even on the MegaBloks? I rather doubt it. Otherwise, simple trademark law would have won the day for Lego.

Lego has a technically superior product of far greater quality, consistency, and creativity. I mean, this is the company that gave us Space Police, Blacktron, and Mindstorms!

But attempting to stretch the bounds of trademark law over functional qualities--the domain of patents--is just completely evil and radically asshat. If the parties involved were, say, Microsoft and Suse, I have no doubt how discussion here would go. It'd have nothing to do with the relative technical merits of the product; it's only be about how Company "B" can only seem to win by litigation, not innovation.

Sheesh. I still like Lego, and I still disdain compatible knockoffs, but DAMMIT I wish good companies would stop indulging their legal departments whenever the legal eagles feel like double-fist-raping the bounds of intellectual-property law.

about RIM not law. (-1, Troll)

CDPatten (907182) | more than 8 years ago | (#14057391)

MegaBlock clearly is in violation. IMHO this has less to do with Canadian law, and more to do with playing a game of tit for tat with the US over the Blackberries. That is not only a dangerous road to go down, but a foolish one.

RTFA. It's about what can be used as a trademark. (3, Informative)

temojen (678985) | more than 8 years ago | (#14057441)

"purely functional" features, such as the well-known geometrical pattern of raised studs on the top of the bricks, could not be the basis of a trademark.


How is this tit-for-tat? Lego is a Danish company.

Re:about RIM not law. (-1, Troll)

CDPatten (907182) | more than 8 years ago | (#14057460)

Yes I know that it isn't a US company. I thought I was clear, but apparently not. I see this as a "warning shot" to the US. Tit for tat. US courts rule (what Canada views as an illegal/wrong decision) and they within a month make this one. I think the only reason they are doing this is so that they can influence the implementation of the RIM ban without directly attacking the US courts.

Re:about RIM not law. (1)

LordKazan (558383) | more than 8 years ago | (#14057538)

I think you're nuts... but that's just me.

This has nothing to do with the US or any tit-for-tat. I think you're seeing leftist monsters in the closet.

go ahead.. mod me troll .. i got karma to burn - but if you mod me troll you must mod him troll too.

Re:about RIM not law. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14057690)

Right... because this case, which goes back several years, and to at least one lower court, has all been a prop used by the Supreme Court of Canada to make a point. Of course, the Supreme Court has such a vested interest in what happens to RIM in the US.

I'm actually kind of offended that you would accuse our Supreme Court judges (who don't have to worry about reelection, and hence popularity) of issuing a ruling as some sort of "revenge" against a third party.

Re:about RIM not law. (4, Insightful)

RobinH (124750) | more than 8 years ago | (#14057463)

MegaBlock clearly is in violation. IMHO this has less to do with Canadian law, and more to do with playing a game of tit for tat with the US over the Blackberries. That is not only a dangerous road to go down, but a foolish one.

I assume you're joking...?

First of all, LEGO is not a US company.

Secondly, MegaBlock is not in violation because the patent has expired. LEGO was trying to use trademark law to extend their monopoly.

Re:about RIM not law. (2, Informative)

SoSueMe (263478) | more than 8 years ago | (#14057530)

"Hunh?"
Blackberry was a patent infringement case.
This was a Trademark issue.
The correlation is not analogous.
Please understand the dispute before inflaming arguments.

Re:about RIM not law. (3, Insightful)

Experiment 626 (698257) | more than 8 years ago | (#14057542)

MegaBlock clearly is in violation. IMHO this has less to do with Canadian law, and more to do with playing a game of tit for tat with the US over the Blackberries. That is not only a dangerous road to go down, but a foolish one.

And how exactly would ruling against a Denmark company like Lego help Canada get back at the USA?

Re:about RIM not law. (1)

Fractal Dice (696349) | more than 8 years ago | (#14057776)

And how exactly would ruling against a Denmark company like Lego help Canada get back at the USA?

I recognize that logic ... omg! Bush has a slashdot account!

( but seriously, except when it comes to enforcing the (relatively young) Charter of Rights, the courts in Canada do a very adept job of staying out of politics )

Re:about RIM not law. (5, Insightful)

saskboy (600063) | more than 8 years ago | (#14057630)

You might be onto something since I read that Lego is Danish, and Denmark and Canada were recently in a spat about who owns a worthless island in the high arctic, because it might one day determine trade routes through the opening NorthWest Passage.

Can we say... (3, Funny)

creimer (824291) | more than 8 years ago | (#14057398)

Home court advantage? I wonder what would happen if the Supreme Court ruled the other way. Burning Lego blocks on the court steps... :P

"For a Limited Time" (4, Informative)

Concern (819622) | more than 8 years ago | (#14057399)

Lego's invention is very old, and was patented a long time ago.

Patents live only so long. This is for a reason. Granting exclusive monopolies on things forever is not a good idea.

Lego's patent expired, long, long after they had recouped money orders of magnitude beyond what would induce others to attempt to innovate in that industry.

Other people started to make lego-like bricks.

Like a lot of monopolists, Lego became addicted to not having and not suffering competitors. They decided that they wanted to play lawyer games and try to keep others from competing with them rather than follow the law, and pretended that the studs on the bricks that make them work are "trademarked" by them...

The judge basically said, "Look, don't you even try that stunt in here. Your patent expired. The studs on the blocks are a mechanical feature, not a mark. Go away."

The question is why you'd want non-lego blocks (4, Interesting)

Rhys (96510) | more than 8 years ago | (#14057405)

The quality of non-lego blocks is seriously sub-par compared to the lego company's brick quality.

They feel cheap, they don't hook together and stay hooked, and they use way way way more custom peices than lego (and these days, that's saying something!).

I mean, I'm all for competition, but I can't say that I think the price legos deliver at, around 1c US per brick in the generic bins of bricks is, you know, out of line.

Re:The question is why you'd want non-lego blocks (2, Insightful)

temojen (678985) | more than 8 years ago | (#14057493)

Now that other comanies can go to market without getting sued, there will likely be many new market entrants, hopefully some where the quality is good and with a line like Dacta, not stupid only-builds-one-thing dinosaur/castle/pirate-ship sets.

No kidding (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14057494)

"Mommy, I don't want to play over at Johnnie's house. He only has MegaBloks! And they're cheap!"

Ahh, yes. Another buy-an-SUV-to-show-up-the-neighbors, warmongering, environmentally-unaware capitalist pig is born.

Thanks, Lego.

Re:The question is why you'd want non-lego blocks (1)

CallistoLion (651747) | more than 8 years ago | (#14057686)

Might actually be a valid comment if you've bought and used MegaBloks. The quality is equal to Lego, the blocks stay together just fine. Plus they've got a great line of designs. Seems like the only kits Lego sells these days is Harry Potter and Star Wars.

Mega Blocks (1)

Megane (129182) | more than 8 years ago | (#14057415)

Even though their stuff is generally inferior to Lego, yes Mega Blocks did deserve to win. Quality-wise, the only bricks I've found up to Lego's quality have been Tyco, and Lego probably scared them out of business. The newer BTR sets are of almost as high quality of plastic as Lego, but they have a lot more pre-cast big chunks, like vehicle chassis, and I don't think I've ever seen anything but BTR "kit" sets. I don't recall seeing any BTR sets of just a bunch of bricks.

The one exception to Mega Blocks being crap is their Dragons sets. Not only are there a lot of cool pieces, they have these nifty gray stone brick pieces that are nice for making castles.

I suggest.... (4, Funny)

S. Ballmer (931150) | more than 8 years ago | (#14057417)

...Lego shift the current block format a millimeter or so. That way it can cripple interoperability with mega blocks' products and further lock in customers. They can sell it as an innovation, saving money to their costumers with all the plastic being cut out. But that's just how we do it where I work... :)

Re:I suggest.... (1)

Megane (129182) | more than 8 years ago | (#14057477)

...Lego shift the current block format a millimeter or so. That way it can cripple interoperability with mega blocks' products and further lock in customers. They can sell it as an innovation, saving money to their costumers with all the plastic being cut out. But that's just how we do it where I work... :)

What do you think Technic and Bionicle were for? So they could create new pieces and new types of connections which were patented in their own right. That they could do new cool stuff with Technic was nice, too.

Re:I suggest.... (1)

ostehaps (929761) | more than 8 years ago | (#14057565)

That's quite simply wrong. Yes, they'd cripple interoperability with mega blocks, but in the same fell swoop also cripple interoperability with the masses of existing Lego blocks. If anything, that step would reduce lock-in. The issue of whether they could get any rights on a subtly modified product is something you should contemplate as well.

Cripple interoperability? (2, Funny)

Pichu0102 (916292) | more than 8 years ago | (#14057741)

Is Sony entering the building block business?

One of the two indicators of IT affinity (4, Interesting)

erucsbo (627371) | more than 8 years ago | (#14057453)

I used to run a quick poll on people who were wanting to get in to IT (before the dot.com crash) and it ran along the lines of:
  • Put up your hand if you played with Lego (mechano/etc) as a child, and
  • Put up your hand if you can appreciate Monty Python (the Goodies / Red Dwarf / etc) humour.
If you put up a hand for both questions then you have the right personality to be able to work in IT, otherwise there are now plenty of jobs around the periphery of IT that might suit you.
I'm yet to find a major exception to the above theory.
Nice to see that there will continue to be Lego alternatives for those anti-Danish interested in developing IT aptitude skills ;-)

Re:One of the two indicators of IT affinity (1)

RajivSLK (398494) | more than 8 years ago | (#14057965)

Here is an execption. I hate Monty Python, Red Dwarf etc. They just drive me crazy, so boring and so dumb. However, I've been using computers since I was 3 years old or so and, among other technical achievements, I run a software company. I did however, play with Lego, constructs etc.

Re:One of the two indicators of IT affinity (1)

erucsbo (627371) | more than 8 years ago | (#14058038)

You don't have to like it - you just have to "get" it.

Re:One of the two indicators of IT affinity (3, Informative)

rossz (67331) | more than 8 years ago | (#14057996)

Put up your hand if you played with Lego (mechano/etc) as a child, and
What do you mean as a child?

Lego didn't invent the brick in the first place (5, Informative)

One Louder (595430) | more than 8 years ago | (#14057465)

The interconnecting block wasn't even invented by Lego - they were invented by a British inventor named Hillary Page. Lego manufactured them in countries in which Page did not have a license, then purchased the expired patents after he commited suicide.

However, Lego did have patents on the little tube on the underside, which allow more connection combinations. After the stud-tube patents expired, Lego attempted to use the appearance of the bricks as a trademark - losing in litigationin most countries, including the United States. Lego now attempts to frighten companies with the more nebulous "trade dress".

More info [best-lock.com]

yeah, but.... (0, Flamebait)

jshaped (899227) | more than 8 years ago | (#14057468)

but they're still the ghetto blocks that only the ghetto children have,
nothing changing that fact.

I was reading to see if this article got it right (3, Interesting)

poobread (826669) | more than 8 years ago | (#14057481)

It's not there anymore, but http://www.legos.com/ [legos.com] used to open to a personal note (screenshot here: http://jaffejuice.typepad.com/photos/uncategorized /legoslas.jpg [typepad.com] ) from the muti-million dollar world-reknown company telling you that they did not want their name tainted by calling Lego® Blocks "legos".

W00t...Canada 1- Denmark 0 (5, Funny)

Pinkoir (666130) | more than 8 years ago | (#14057501)

Now let's all go build a Mega-Blok castle on Hans Island [www.cbc.ca] and really teach those bastards a lesson.

As an aside, since they are made in Montreal would they be Mega-Blok Quebecois? And if so is it ironic or paradoxical that separatist cubes would be specifically designed to stick together with things.

-Pinkoir

Re:W00t...Canada 1- Denmark 0 (1)

IWorkForMorons (679120) | more than 8 years ago | (#14057714)

Actually...I thought they were called Mega-Blocs.

Re:W00t...Canada 1- Denmark 0 (1)

antiMStroll (664213) | more than 8 years ago | (#14057990)

Explaining perhaps why they had difficulty integrating with "the Others"? (props to Levesque)

Re:W00t...Canada 1- Denmark 0 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14057736)

>since they are made in Montreal would they be Mega-Blok Quebecois? And if so is it ironic or paradoxical that separatist cubes would be specifically designed to stick together with things.

ROTFLOL! :D

Re:W00t...Canada 1- Denmark 0 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14057758)

They're not the Bloc(k) Quebecois for nothing.

Re:W00t...Canada 1- Denmark 0 (2, Insightful)

Beardo the Bearded (321478) | more than 8 years ago | (#14057774)

I'm out of points, but that was the funniest post I've seen on /. all week.

It's ironic, not paradoxial. Paradoxial would be if LEGO was suing them for making a similar product while at the same time not suing them.

Re:W00t...Canada 1- Denmark 0 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14057940)

As a proud Canadian, I now sleep better at night, safe in the knowledge the Danish Lego Threat has been roundly crushed once and for all.

c5oc4 (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14057510)

bombsh3el hit

Lego (0, Redundant)

Universal Indicator (626874) | more than 8 years ago | (#14057531)

Looks like Lego will have to take their toys and go home.

Fuck yankdot! (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14057537)

Boycott this garbage.

Finally... (1)

Indy Media Watch (823624) | more than 8 years ago | (#14057554)

We can look forward to taking our kids to Lego ^H^H^H^H Blocko Land...

Anyone should be able to sell blocks (1)

external400kdiskette (930221) | more than 8 years ago | (#14057557)

Especially after such a long time of existence. Having said that it's hard to imagine Lego being replaced because competitors cant outdo them on features or it'd ruin the simplicity of the thing and they can copy it but basic Lego isn't to expensive and Lego has the advantage of being Lego with an image created over decades that a competitor cant match. But they should be allowed to try compete, good for everyone.

Re:Anyone should be able to sell blocks (1)

interstellar_donkey (200782) | more than 8 years ago | (#14057802)

Lego isn't to [sic] expensive

I suppose it all depends on your definition of expensive. A quick search for bulk discount Lego blocks puts them at about $0.05 each; not high until you consider the block is nothing more then a tiny colored bit of molded plastic that probably cost a quarter of a penny to manufacture. If you go with one of their boxed kits, the price jumps up significantly on the price-per-block scale.

Sell Lego blocks at 1 or 2 cents each, and I'd probably get back into the hobby in a big way. Until then, it's just too pricey for me. As it stands, to start out with enough Legos to build anything significant, you're talking around $100 for something that cost them ~$5 to make.

I know that eventually I'll have to bite the bullet and lay out a few C notes for Lego blocks when the kids get old enough to play with them without trying to eat them. Yes, I did it when I was a kid, yes I was stupid (still am), and yes it hurts something awful. I wonder if there isn't a few bits of plastic still inside my stomach or intestines that have lasted 25 years. How long does it take for plastic to degrade when surrounded by stomach acid?. Regardless of the cost, it'd be cruel and a mark of an unfit parent if I denied my children one of the coolest toys out there.

In other news... (0, Offtopic)

Dragoonmac (929292) | more than 8 years ago | (#14057589)

Barbie reports that she will not drop her divorce litigation against Ken. As many of you know Ken ran off with Mitch over 3 years ago, Barbie also commented she is very happy with her new boyfriend, G.I. Joe who is currently overseas fighting COBRA in Afghanastan.

Re:In other news... (1)

marsperson (909862) | more than 8 years ago | (#14057640)

Surely that relation won't last, G.I. Joe is a closeted homosexual.

Re:In other news... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14057779)

Barbies are also on stike becuase they say the plastic industry sucks! They say that sexual harrasment problems have been going up due to the fact that the don't have all of their undergarments, Barbies are still fighting the US supreme court for this one. This also leads to more STD's found in more Barbies. To find out more, tune in to news at 11.

This might set a precedent... (1)

Spy der Mann (805235) | more than 8 years ago | (#14057599)

on software depending on "purely functional features" similar to those of that commercial software.

Then again, that was Canada's, not US' Supreme Court.
And of course, there's the issue of software patents... :(

LegoDeath.com is apropos! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14057608)

OK, it's no longer called "LegoDeath.com", probably for legal reasons*:

BlockDeath.com [thefrown.com] . :-)

* - What's the difference between a dead skunk in the road and a dead lawyer in the road? There are skid marks in front of the skunk.

What do you call 10,000 lawyers at the bottom of the ocean? A good start.

Fuck yankdot! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14057669)

dumb shits

Great news! (1)

shimmerkid (661737) | more than 8 years ago | (#14057679)

This is a great thing, as Legos (whoops! I meant "Models built of Lego bricks" [lego.com] ) have, as of late, descended into lame [lego.com] branding [lego.com] excercises [lego.com] in order to shift product. Other than the wonderful Technic kits [lego.com] , Legos (whoops!) have become crappy toys that happen to snap together.

Hopefully, now that Lego has been forced to allow interoperation, other more innovative building brick companies can fill the void.

Or [megabloks.com] maybe [megabloks.com] not [megabloks.com] .

Re:Great news! (0, Flamebait)

sp5 (867987) | more than 8 years ago | (#14057841)

Hopefully, now that Lego has been forced to allow interoperation, other more innovative building brick companies can fill the void.

Yes, yes, there really should be an open community based building brick standard.

I suggest the formation of the Building Brick Committee to oversee all matters of the brick, and to appease all nations it would be affiliated with the UN.

-sp-

Re:Great news! (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 8 years ago | (#14057930)

The LEGO Trademark cannot be used in an Internet Address
The LEGO trademark should not be incorporated into an Internet address. Internet addresses have become useful tools for people to identify the source of a homepage. Using "LEGO" in the domain name would be creating the misleading impression that the LEGO Group sponsored the homepage.
I'd like to see them make that stick. I could make a site about the Romans in West Yorkshire[1] and the there's diddly squat they could do if I named it www.legolium.com (from the Roman name for Castleford - not that I have to justify it anyway).

[1] England. The North, where you don't find tourists.

Mega Bloks are crap though. (4, Insightful)

sbaker (47485) | more than 8 years ago | (#14057687)

Any serious or even semi-serious Lego builder will tell you that MegaBloks are *AWFUL* compared to the genuine article.

They are made of a much harder plastic and after being snapped together and pulled apart just a couple of times, they wear out to the point where they hardly stick together at all.

Lego parts are of a slightly more 'rubbery' plastic - they feel almost oily to the touch. I have Lego bricks from 40 years ago that still work just as well as they day they were first used.

When my son was given a bunch of MegaBloks as a present, they 'polluted' our vast Lego collection. Every time I find one, I toss it straight into the trash.

About the only use for MegaBloks is in making large sculptural pieces that you want to glue together to make permenant. The hard polystyrene in MegaBloks can be glued together with polystyrene cement - and the issue of wear becomes irrelevent!

Yet other Lego clones exist - but they tend to have poorer tolerances than either Lego or MegaBloks and can actually damage your real Lego if you mix them.

Good for them (4, Funny)

ApuD2 (929032) | more than 8 years ago | (#14057770)

I'm surprised Mega Bloks won against Lego. I figured the odds were stacked against them.

Home Court Advantage? (1)

dakirw (831754) | more than 8 years ago | (#14057788)

Sounds like Montreal-based Mega Blocks had home court advantage in this particular case.

You can't trademark an invention (1)

Darius Jedburgh (920018) | more than 8 years ago | (#14057830)

You can only patent inventions. Why does it need lawyers and courts to figure this out?

Lego evil? Say it ain't so! (1)

Traa (158207) | more than 8 years ago | (#14057876)

It seems fairly obvious that the Lego Corporation tried something pretty amoral (using money/lawyers/trademarks to try to maintain their monopoly after their patents had expired). If this was any of a number of known big name companies we would be happy to scream foul and claim evil...but we are talking about Lego...I grew up with that stuff. I have been dreaming of buying it for my son. And now they went evil??!!

Man, that hurts.

Well, ok but there's still only one lego (2, Interesting)

NoMercy (105420) | more than 8 years ago | (#14057912)

I always hated it when I found other non lego blocks in my bin full of blocks, espically if they fitted with other lego blocks, but not quite perfectly, I'd be happyly looking for the right piece, think Ive found it, and then have it pop off every time I play with my creation, only to find out it's a fake that's slipped under the radar!

Though if megablocks don't fit into lego blocks I'd be happy with it :)

Lego was hoping to win...in canada... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14057976)

Tell me about optimism.

LEGO you got served, pwned and owned.

Too bad... (1)

Jmcconn110 (932008) | more than 8 years ago | (#14057980)

Mega Bloks are crap, as anyone who has used Legos knows that. But it is unfortunate that they are allowed to reproduce legos design, Lego did have their chance though, and Mega Bloks will probably be shot down anyways...

Sorry for the rant... (2, Insightful)

Txiasaeia (581598) | more than 8 years ago | (#14058028)

...but what the hell is Lego thinking as of late? Okay, so you've got a lawsuit against a competitor because their product is similar. I can see that. But why in the world did they move from terrific, wonderful, *creative* designs to essentially marketing Harry Potter and Star Wars sets? Blacktron (new and old), Space Police, M-Tron... Lego used to put out extremely interesting sets 10-15 years ago, and then all of a sudden they decided that creativity was no longer necessary and sold their soul to IP.

I'm glad that Mega Bloks won the suit - they, at least, put out more creative sets than Lego (not to mention they're Canadian). Lego, if you're listening, I've got lots of disposable income and a fondness towards your brand, but if all you're going to is brand other people's IP, you're not going to have me as a customer.

Having ruled that there are limits to IP rights... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14058049)

"Trademark law should not be used to perpetuate monopoly rights enjoyed under now-expired patents," the Supreme Court says.

The last of Lego's Canadian patents on its blocks expired in 1988.

"The fact is ... that the monopoly on the bricks is over, and Mega Bloks and Lego bricks may be interchangeable in the bins of the playrooms of the nation - dragons, castles and knights may be designed with them, without any distinction," the high court ruled.

...following the courts' final verdict, Canada is certainly on high alert - expecting an invasion Real Soon Now, from some southern neighbor who vows not to tolerate such heresy against the creed in ever-expanding unlimited IP.
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