No Copycats on this Block: Examining a LEGO Copyright Case

Recently, the Lego Group won a case against a Chinese company that copied their blocks. The Shantou Intermediate People’s Court ruled that Bela, the infringing company, “must stop copying the packaging and logos of LEGO products in the future, as this constitutes copyright infringement.”

The court’s decision is particularly significant because foreign companies have frequently complained that China does not adequately protect against intellectual property theft. With concerns about this perception, China implemented a crackdown on intellectual property infringement in September 2017. One of the crackdown’s specific policies was to fight copyright infringement. This decision is one of the court’s post-September 2017 earlier decisions.

Related, another Chinese office ruled in favour of a different foreign company that alleged trade-mark infringement. Santa Maria Novella, an Italian cosmetics producer, successfully argued trade-mark infringement before the Chinese Trade-Mark Office.

The individual cases and more general crackdown are most likely indicative of broader, economic trends. The Chinese Minister of Commerce, on December 11 2017, stated China is a “firm proponent” of international trade. With rulings favouring foreign companies, China might be encouraging them to invest or operate within China.

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