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LEGO in China newsroom announcements

by admin on November 13, 2018

in Community News

A couple of interesting pieces of news came out a few days ago, both related to LEGO’s presence in China. The LEGO Group has been making great effort to expand into the Chinese market, as it is a mostly untapped territory with the potential of a millions of new customers. Back in 2016, LEGO opened a new factory in Jiaxing, China, with the intention of providing their products across Asia. LEGO also has a couple of official LEGO stores in China, with more on the way, as well as several certified stores. And, there is already a LEGOLAND Discovery Center, plus two LEGOLAND parks currently under construction. In addition, back in October, we talked about LEGO introducing a new sandbox game to the Chinese market (see: LEGO Cube Sandbox Game Coming to China!). 🙂

While all of this is good news for the company, there are also challenges to face. Like many other Western companies, LEGO has some serious issues with Chinese counterfeiters copying their products and selling them in their own countries as well as abroad. LEGO had a win against BELA about a year ago (see: More LEGO Trademark Rulings in China), and now they had another win against LEPIN, one of the most aggressive counterfeiters shamelessly copying LEGO’s own products. Details of this second ruling were posted in the LEGO newsroom on November 6th. See copy below image.

The LEGO Group today received a favorable decision from the Guangzhou Yuexiu District Court against four companies who infringed multiple copyrights of the LEGO Group and conducted acts of unfair competition by producing and distributing LEPIN building sets. It is another significant legal victory in China for the LEGO Group in its battle against imitators over the past two years.

According to the decisions issued by the court, the four defendants, Shantou Meizhi Model Co., Ltd., et al, are liable for copying the 3-dimensional artworks of 18 LEGO sets, multiple LEGO Minifigures, as well as for carrying out unfair competition acts. The court ordered, among other things, that the four defendants shall immediately cease producing, selling, exhibiting or in any way promoting the infringing products, and shall pay the LEGO Group approximately RMB 4.5 million as damages.

Niels B. Christiansen, Chief Executive Officer of the LEGO Group said: “We welcome the court’s ruling. We believe these decisions are well-founded in the facts and the law, and clearly demonstrate the continued efforts of Chinese authorities to protect intellectual property. It also shows the authorities’ commitment to creating a fair business environment for all companies operating in China. The court’s decisions state that the LEPIN manufacturer and sellers must immediately cease copying the 18 LEGO sets that have been found protectable by the court. These rulings send a clear warning message to other companies who may be copying LEGO products. We will continue to take all necessary legal actions to protect our intellectual property rights. When children and shoppers choose a LEGO product, they expect the highest quality and the safest play experience. We cannot have them being misled in any way. While we welcome fair competition, if someone misuses our intellectual property and seeks to take advantage of consumers’ trust, we will take action.”

Over the past two years, the LEGO Group has obtained positive outcomes in its intellectual property enforcement actions in China. In October 2017, the LEGO Group won a case at Shantou Intermediate Court against BELA, a Chinese toy manufacturer, for infringing the copyrights of the LEGO Group and for unfair competition. In another case decided earlier in July 2017, the LEGO logo and the LEGO word mark were recognized by the Beijing Higher Court as “well-known” trademarks in China.

While I’m sure this legal battle is not over, and counterfeiters will try other methods to continue their illegal business activities, with the courts standing behind LEGO in protecting their intellectual property, the company can breath a bit easier and focus on delivering positive experiences to new fans. In another press-release, LEGO talks about some of the new projects they have been working on.

The LEGO Group announced at the first China International Import Expo (CIIE) that it will launch its first elementary school STEAM courses for Chinese students from next year, enabling local students to become active, collaborative learners and build 21st century skills. The Danish family-owned business also announced that its first-ever sets inspired by traditional new year festivals will be available in China and Asia Pacific markets from January 1st, 2019.

Niels B. Christiansen, Chief Executive Officer of the LEGO Group, said: “As a mission-driven business, we are committed to inspiring and developing children through creative play and learning. We are excited to announce these major launches for China at the CIIE, and our commitment to this strategic growth market and goals to provide the creative LEGO play experience to the hands of more Chinese children remain unchanged.”

The elementary school STEAM courses are the result of close collaboration between East China Normal University Press (ECNUP), LEGO Education and Chinese STEAM experts to ensure it complements existing courses. LEGO Education products including Simple Machines Set, Creative Suitcase, Space and Airport Set and Creative LEGO Brick Set are used in the courses to support teaching in an inspiring, engaging and effective way. Scheduled for test in primary schools in Shanghai later this month, the STEAM courses with consist of student textbooks and teacher guidebooks. It is be officially available from April 2019.

Christiansen said: “We believe in the power of play to develop essential life-long skills to succeed in the 21st century. We are proud of the close collaborations with local educators as we combine our global experiences and the local insights together to ensure that our first STEAM courses for Chinese students can contribute to the Chinese society’s growing needs of innovative talents with creative skills.”

The new sets celebrate iconic New Year traditions. Chinese New Year’s Eve Dinner shows a Chinese family reuniting to celebrate the lunar New Year in a traditional home. Often performed during Chinese New Year, Dragon Dance is a symbol of the Chinese culture and is believed to bring good luck to people. The Dragon Dance set features a team of dragon dancers, with a minifigure dressed as a cute pig celebrating the coming Chinese New Year of the Pig. Christiansen said: “These sets are special. They are the first sets we’ve created to celebrate Lunar New Year and the first time we’ve made sets for a specific country or region. We hope they bring a lot of joy to children and the young at heart during new year.”

While most LEGO fans are happy to hear that the company is doing well in China by winning court cases and expanding their presence, there has also been disappointment over the exclusive sets. Both sets look excellent, and LEGO fans feel that there is no reason why they couldn’t be distributed worldwide. Even if they are not made available via retailers, they should at least be offered through the Online LEGO Shop. I believe this request is reasonable, given that we live in a well-connected global economy and exclusive sets only benefit resellers, but we will have to see how LEGO responds to the request.

What do you think about all these news? Feel free to share and discuss in the comment section below! 😉

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As we discussed a couple of days ago, six new LEGO Overwatch sets are available for preorder, and according to the details at the Online LEGO Shop, they will be shipped on January 1st of next year. This new theme is similar to other novel collections LEGO tried out in the past, with small to medium size sets at moderate prices. If the theme performs well, LEGO can offer more and larger sets, if not, they didn’t invest too much to get in financial trouble. 🙂

The announcement that LEGO was releasing sets related to the Overwatch game by Activision Blizzard was a huge surprise for the LEGO fan community. In case you are not familiar with Overwatch, it is a popular team-based multiplayer first-person shooter video game that was released in 2016 and is available for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Windows. Players are assigned into two teams of six, with each player selecting from a roster of characters known as “heroes”. Players on a team work together to secure and defend control points on a map or escort a payload across the map in a limited amount of time.

To date, LEGO stayed away from video games, with the exception of Minecraft. Even LEGO Angry Birds sets were only released after the film (which was based on the original game). In addition, games and films wholly centered on shooting was against LEGO’s policies. While Overwatch is a cartoony game with unrealistic weapons, it’s still all about shooting with not much else going on. On the other hand, Overwatch has more than 40 million players and is considered one of the best multiplayer games with numerous awards, so it seems that LEGO decided it was worth giving them a try. Preordering is also something new that LEGO has never done for an entire theme.

Once the initial shock wore off, and the LEGO Overwatch sets were revealed, it was interesting to see how LEGO approached the game. Like with all franchise-based sets, great care has been put into designing the minifigures. Depicting the characters accurately is important to those who play the game, and can bring in new fans and collectors. The second most important part of the game are the mechs and vehicles, so careful design went into these as well to make sure they are as close to the source-material as possible. The scenes and settings are pretty much just props in the game, which is also reflected in the LEGO Overwatch sets.

The #75970 LEGO Overwatch Tracer vs. Widowmaker set recreates the drone satellite from the Watchpoint: Gibraltar map where Overwatch heroes Tracer and Widowmaker battle for control of the payload. The satellite drone payload vehicle features a hidden cockpit with computer detailing, opening rear hold, a removable drone ‘brain’ element and a health pack for added play. While the vehicle uses stickers, there is a checkpoint disk, which is fully printed. Weapons include Widowmaker’s Widow’s Kiss and Tracer’s twin Pulse Pistols. This is a good starter set for both play and display, if you want to try out the Overwatch theme. 129 pieces. Price: $14.99 – BUY HERE

In the #75971 LEGO Overwatch Hanzo vs. Genji is more of a location based set, recreating the epic face-off for the Hanamura dojo between the rival dragon brothers Hanzo and cyborg ninja Genji. The third minifig is Shimada Henchman. Hanamura dojo features a weapons stand, health pack, and two hidden disc-shooters that represent the dragon spirits of each brother. Weapons include Genji’s Ryu-Ichimonji sword and Hanzo’s Storm Bow. The setting itself is very similar to what we find in the LEGO Ninjago collection, so here again, the most important feature is the minifigures. 197 pieces. Price: $19.99 – BUY HERE

The #75972 LEGO Overwatch Dorado Showdown has the largest building, however, although it is nicely designed, it is still just a facade. It is designed in the style of the buildings of the Dorado map, and features three windows (two with shutters), lamps, a lantern, a mini market booth and a doorway for the payload truck to pass through. The payload truck features space for a minifigure, a generator payload that can be taken off, and hidden wheels to simulate the payload truck hovering like in the game. The three characters are Soldier: 76, Reaper, and McCree. Weapons include Soldier: 76’s Heavy Pulse Rifle, Reaper’s twin Hellfire Shotguns, and McCree’s Peacekeeper six-shooter revolver. For just the minifigs, this set would be too pricey, but if you like what you see in the rest of the set, or if you like the parts-selection, it might still be worth it. 419 pieces. Price: $29.99 – BUY HERE

The #75973 LEGO Overwatch D.Va & Reinhardt is probably the most interesting in the list up to this point, with two buildable mechs. The D.Va tank model has shooting function, and the Reinhardt tank model features a buildable colossal Rocket Hammer. Both mechs are about 5 inches tall, and open to fit a minifig inside. Weapons include D.Va’s Fusion Cannons and Reinhardt’s Rocket Hammer. 455 pieces. Price: $39.99 – BUY HERE

The #75974 LEGO Overwatch Bastion is probably the most talked about LEGO Overwatch set, and for a good reason! LEGO designers did an excellent job recreating one of the most recognizable characters from the game with realistic details and colors, and the model is fully reconfigurable from recon mode to sentry mode without any rebuilding! Bastion in recon mode stands around 10” tall, and in sentry mode around 6” tall. Also, there is an included red light-brick in Bastion’s head that can be turned on! Even if you don’t care for the Overwatch game, but you like mechs, you might consider this set. 602 pieces. Price: $49.99 – BUY HERE

The #75975 LEGO Overwatch Watchpoint: Gibraltar is the largest of the LEGO Overwatch sets and features and Overwatch rocket and launch tower from the Watchpoint: Giblartar map. The Overwatch rocket can split into two, with a cockpit in each section. The smaller rocket features a trunk big enough for big figure Winston, plus bananas and peanut butter jar. The launch pad allows the rocket to be supported vertically, and there is also a printed checkpoint disk. Characters include Pharah with her Rocket Launcher, Mercy with her Caduceus Staff and Blaster, Reaper with his twin Hellfire Shotguns, and a Winston big figure with his Tesla Cannon. Both the rocket and the rocket launcher are about 14″ tall! While the minifigs in this set are amazing, I think the rocket and rocket launcher are very nice too, even outside of the Overwatch universe. However, the price is quite high at over 13 cents/piece, so it might be worth waiting until there is some kind of a sale. 730 pieces. Price: $89.99 – BUY HERE

Solid Brix Studios had a chance to check out all six sets ahead of the official release at BlizzCon. Their video is included below. The lighting is not the best, and the camera work is a bit shaky, but you can see the sets from different angles, and even some of the functions.

Overall, I feel that this is a good selection of sets, most of which work well both for play and display, and could even be used as regular sets by those who don’t care for the Overwatch game. In addition, the minifigures are exceptional with very nice printing and accessories. Whether we will get more LEGO Overwatch sets in the future, or from any other game made by Blizzard Entertainment, will depend on how this first selection is received. Prices are a bit all over the place from 7-13 cents per piece, so while most of the sets are worth buying at full price, it might be a good idea to wait for a sale on some of them. If you would like more details and pictures on each set, and to preorder, visit the LEGO Overwatch section of the Online LEGO Shop.

What do you think? How do you like the LEGO Overwatch sets? Do you have a favorite vehicle, location, or minifigure? Are you planning to get any of the sets? Will you wait until January, or take advantage of the preorder option? Feel free to share and discuss in the comment section below! 😉

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