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LEGO in China newsroom announcements

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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{ 15 comments… add one }
  • Rob November 13, 2018, 10:41 AM

    In reading about this article my response was half agreement, I too am happy that Lego has this potential for more business (especially after Toys R Us closing) the other half being a bit of concern about Lego parts being made in China. It’s probably in part me being my age, but I definitely remember when the term ‘Made in China’ meant poor quality, although that has definitely improved from the 70’s and 80. Just a little concerned this could lead to the slipper cheese slope of the quality of Lego pieces eventually going down hill.

    I saw a couple YouTube videos that compared the quality of Lepin to Lego, and while Lepin isn’t horrible, it just isn’t the same build quality. Also based on some of the comments of said videos a certain number of people are not going to be happy if they can’t buy Lepin models anymore. Oh well. 🙂 Okay, I’m not without sympathy, as yes, Lego isn’t cheap, but it’s nice to have products that still focus on quality! 😉

    • admin November 13, 2018, 12:04 PM

      Rob, good points. While I’m sure a lot of people aren’t happy they won’t be able to buy cheap knockoff LEGO sets, as a society, we really can’t support theft. If legitimate companies can’t be confident that leaders protect their rights, they will simply go somewhere else, stop producing, or forced to go out of business.

      As far as the factory in China, it is fully built and operated by the LEGO company to their strict specifications and standards. LEGO did have some parts made in China even before (keychains, magnets, some specialized parts, etc.) but they were made by third parties to LEGO’s orders. By having their own factory, LEGO will have a lot more control over quality. Also, the factory in China will serve the Asian market. Other markets are still served by the LEGO factories in Europe and Mexico.

  • brickmaster November 13, 2018, 1:13 PM

    Good riddance with Lepin! I hope they won’t just restart under a different name and keep stealing Lego products! The Chinese New Year sets look great. I hope they will be available outside of China. I like the torso prints and headbands.

  • LEGOJeff November 13, 2018, 1:27 PM

    I sure hope that at least the pieces from the Chinese sets will be available on Bricklink. I NEED those torsos and hairpieces! Are they carrying a dragon?

    • admin November 13, 2018, 3:39 PM

      Yes, the set depicts a dragon dance, so what you see above the minifigs’ heads is part of a dragon. 🙂

  • Sith015 November 13, 2018, 1:53 PM

    So need those ninjas! Are there larger pictures of the sets? And I’m glad the knockoff company is gone!

    • admin November 13, 2018, 3:40 PM

      The only picture available right now is this one from the press-release.

  • Will November 13, 2018, 3:02 PM

    I’d expect this means the most public face of the counterfit LEGO sets is gone, but judging any market ever there will still be someone out there attempting it. For the sole reason that it is profitable.

    That’s not to say I’m unhappy about the outcome. Countries should respect the copyrights of individuals and companies to build confidence in those looking to create.

    Speaking of creating, man I want that Dragon Dancer set. Probably need to keep an eye out on resellers willing to sell the set over seas.

    • admin November 13, 2018, 3:42 PM

      If they could contain selling within China, they could probably survive even by stealing. However, Lepin got greedy, and they turned their eyes to the West. That’s where they make the most money, but that’s also when they got into trouble. We will see if they survive… And yes, the dragon set is awesome! 😀

  • Martin November 13, 2018, 3:35 PM

    I can’t believe it took this long to get rid of LEPIN. But I’m glad their criminal activities finally caught up with them. I hope they are going to be gone for good, or at least make something original instead of stealing from Lego and from MOCers.

    • admin November 13, 2018, 3:43 PM

      There is still a possibility they could work with LEGO fans, unfortunately, they also burned their bridges there by stealing so many custom designs.

  • jabber-baby-wocky November 13, 2018, 3:48 PM

    So happy for Lego for finally getting some results. China is like the Wild West! I hope they have good success there, but I would like them to offer the same sets for us. After all, the sets available in the West are also available in China, so why wouldn’t China-focused sets be available in the West?

  • Legostuff14 November 13, 2018, 4:44 PM

    Good riddance too bad lepin. On a sadder note, r.i.p Stan Lee. 😢 I got into comics before I got into lego. In fact I’m getting back into comics again for two reasons . One, Lego is getting to expensive for me. And two, even though I have a lot of space for Lego, I don’t want to turn into a hoarder. I’m not going to stop completely . Just a lot more selective on my purchases on Lego sets.

    • admin November 13, 2018, 8:52 PM

      Yeah, it was really sad to hear about Stan Lee. But he had a long and rich life, enriching the lives of many others as well. Still the world is sad today. 🙁

      • Håkan November 14, 2018, 3:42 PM

        Stan Lee, yes… Face Front, True Believers! Excelsior!

        (Although I have to admit even comics can take up a lot of space in the end…)

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