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Update on LEPIN & Other LEGO Counterfaiters

Towards the end of last year, the LEGO Group announced that they received favorable decision from Chinese courts against companies who infringed on their copyrights, including the notorious counterfeiter company LEPIN, which has been aggressively copying and distributing official LEGO sets as well as LEGO fan created models without authorization (see: LEGO In China Newsroom Announcements). However, this did not slow down LEPIN from continuing to produce fake LEGO sets. In fact, the situation got so bad that there are reports from China and Hong Kong of LEPIN sets being sold in official LEGO boxes (read more here).

Finally, it was reported at the end of April that the Shanghai police successfully destroyed the criminal gang suspected of infringing the copyright of the LEGO brand, arrested four suspects including the leader of the operation, and smashed production and packaging. The raid involved 3 warehouses, more than 10 assembly lines, more than 90 production molds, nearly 200,000 manuals, more than 200,000 packaging boxes, more than 630,000 finished products, and more than 200 million Yuan (~$30 million USD). You can read a good summary of the case here, and another good article from the BBC here.

Distribution of LEPIN sets halted for a few days, however they are being sold again. It’s difficult to deal with Chinese counterfeiters as all they do is change names and/or locations and they are back in business. In addition, distributors ship LEPIN sets to other countries in unmarked boxes with only loose pieces, which makes it difficult to identify them. It’s like fighting Hydra, the many-headed serpent of Greek mythology; you cut off one head, and two new ones pop up. LEGO fans were watching these development with great concern, and even contacted LEGO’s legal department with questions and tips.

A couple of days ago, we got the following update via the LEGO Ambassador Network in regards to the case. Vice president and general counsel for LEGO China, Robin Smith, was interviewed by BBC about the police action against LEPIN, where she highly credited the support from the AFOL (Adult-Fan-of-LEGO) community in this battle. In the article, she mentions that LEGO uses the help of government authorities, customs officials, private investigators, as well as LEGO fans who have been tracking down and helping to bust counterfeiters. “I think there’s one way we’re probably very unique as a company, and that is that we have this global network of fans of ours, of our product. We call them Adult Fans of LEGO, or AFOLs. And they actually will send us sets in the mail with the receipts so that we know where they found it and how much it cost. And I’ve had some fans that have been doing that for all 20 years that I’ve been with the company, which is fantastic.”

Robin also added: “Counterfeiters are threat to our business, but I think it’s more of a threat… and where we’re more concerned… is in the safety of the products that people are getting when they buy a copycat product, because safety is of utmost importance to us. With copycat products, you get no guarantee on the safety of what you’re going to get in the package. I’ve actually seen a lot of things in with copycat bricks, in sets that are trying to look like LEGO sets. You see tree branches, or insects, or candy wrappers. You name it. I think in 20 years I’ve seen lots of different things go in there. And the quality of the facilities in which they are packing these products, or in which they are molding these cheap plastic bricks, is also not good. We had that confirmed, definitely, with the photos we got from the police in this recent raid that the Shanghai police did.” Read whole article here.

Furthermore, Robin wished to pass on a few more words to the LEGO fan community via the LEGO Ambassador Network: “Lately, the LEGO Legal Department has been flooded with numerous messages about LEPIN changing its name and about the fact that their sets are still being sold on certain websites and in certain stores. We wanted to let you all know that we know. And, yes, we know this can seem discouraging. I suppose the best analogy here is: We have won a big battle, but we have not yet won the war. There is still a lot of work left to do. And, the Legal Department, with the help of the Shanghai Police and others, are doing it. Actually, not just in China, but all over the world, against LEPIN and other copycats and infringers. And, yes, we are working to stop the continued sale of LEPIN sets on many fronts. So don’t lose hope. We are on the case!”

As you can see, dealing with Chinese counterfeiters is not a simple affair. However, with the awareness and help of the LEGO fan community and the general public, as well as various agencies, it can be done. What do you think? Did you ever encounter a counterfeit LEGO set by either LEPIN or other companies? Do you think LEGO will be successful fighting them? Feel free to share and discuss in the comment section below!

And you might also like to check out the following related posts:

{ 16 comments… add one }
  • Master Builder May 28, 2019, 11:53 AM

    Ha-ha! I like the Hydra analogy. China is under a lot of fire lately, and we can only hope they will change their policies. It’s a shame they can freely steal whatever they want with no consequences.

  • TomTom May 28, 2019, 12:08 PM

    Star Plan? Lepin Bricks 2? Don’t these guys have some imagination? Why don’t they just design their own things? Why do they have to steal?

  • Martin May 28, 2019, 12:39 PM

    Despicable! What’s wrong with these people? Kudos to the afols and others who have been helping with this. I didn’t know that Lego has been dealing with cloners for so long!

  • LEGOJeff May 28, 2019, 2:07 PM

    It’s really good to hear this because I still see ads for Lepin on Facebook. I hope they can stop them. I agree with TomTom. If they want to get into the construction toy business, why don’t they just make their own thing?

  • Will May 28, 2019, 2:46 PM

    Unfortunately when you have a sucessful company you’ll always have some illegal copying.

    Most of the time they are doing it not because they want to get in on that business but to profit off the brand’s identity they are copying. LEGO is worth as much as it is because of LEGO as a brand name. We’ll see in stores other brands with twice the parts at half the price and still choose LEGO because we trust it.

    And that seems what LEGO is concerned with. They said nothing about these companies making the product it was the fact that they are passing off potentially harmful products using the LEGO name.

    As it stands, there will always be a black market for things as long as there is profit in it. What we can hope for is better management of it.

  • Rob May 28, 2019, 9:22 PM

    Every now and then someone on Facebook claims they’re selling Lego models at a /huge/ discount, for instance the UCS Millennium Falcon at $49 “until our numbers run out!” Or some such deal. Sure, selling an $800 Lego model for $49. I’ve asked a couple of times on the Facebook comments section if it’s Lepin and my comment has always been deleted.

    Go figure. 😛 😀

    • admin May 29, 2019, 12:10 AM

      Most of those are actual scams. They aren’t sending anything. Not even Lepin. 🙁

  • John Winston May 29, 2019, 3:03 PM

    If it wasn’t for Lepin I wouldn’t have the first three modulars. You’d have to be a fool to buy them from a Lego scalper. I will say they were wrong in counterfeiting currently released models though.

    • Hamishsalomon May 30, 2019, 4:26 AM

      I blame a lot of it on scalpers too.
      I don’t know about the other thing you mention, but scalpers are unworthy of the LEGO brand.

  • Brian December 25, 2019, 3:29 PM

    It’s unfortunate, but that’s what happens when you charge $800 for a kit that we all know didn’t cost anywhere near that to design and fabricate. I’m all for making a profit, but it’s obvious I’m not that only one that thinks it’s ridiculous that some of these kits are so expensive, that LEGO legitimately offers financing to purchase them (the newest Millennium Falcon, for example). I make nearly six figures a year, and even I couldn’t justify spending that kind of money on a LEGO set. I can’t speak on the quality control of the knockoffs, so I can only assume the guy in the story is telling the truth, but there are plenty of people out there who are willing to risk a few bug carcasses in a bag in order to save $600. My buddy has the knockoff X Wing and Star Destroyer and, aside from not having LEGO stamped on every piece, they look identical to the real thing, and were about 1/3 the price. When your prices are ridiculous, it’s only a matter of time before something like this happens. As for the people saying “Let the knockoffs create their own stuff”, I hate to break it to you, but LEGO didn’t create Star Wars….

    • Martin December 25, 2019, 3:39 PM

      While I appreciate some of your points, and I agree that you have to be fairly well off to enjoy Lego as a hobby, to use the argument that Lego didn’t create Star Wars is ridiculous. Lego pays licensing fees to Disney. Lego employs full-time designers who design, test, redesign and test some more every single set they release. Lepin doesn’t do any of that. They steal both from Disney and Lego and they don’t care about quality, reliability, safety, or customer satisfaction. That’s why their sets are so cheap.

      • Master Builder December 26, 2019, 10:50 AM

        For real. Justyfing theft like this is never right.

        • Brian January 7, 2020, 11:24 AM

          Speaking of theft, let’s not forget that LEGO stole their entire interlocking brick idea from a company called Kiddicraft back in the 40’s. So, glass houses and all. Or karma, if you prefer.

      • Brian January 7, 2020, 11:23 AM

        While I do give credit to LEGO for coming up with some really amazing designs, let’s be honest; they have a monopoly on Star Wars creations because of the licensing, which let’s them charge ridiculously high prices for those sets (like I said in my first post, making a profit is great, but when the price for a kit is so high that people need to finance it, “profit” starts to look suspiciously like “gouging”). As far as designs, the Millennium Falcon, for example, has a very distinct look; it’d be hard for Lepin to design Millennium Falcon set on their own that didn’t come dangerously close to copying the LEGO design. But more to the point, let’s not forget that LEGO stole their entire interlocking brick idea from a company called Kiddicraft back in the 40’s. So, glass houses and all. Or karma, if you prefer.

    • pogito December 7, 2020, 2:26 AM

      well I dont think the price is rediculous for the value you are getting. I’ve been a LEGO collector and builder since the 80’s. A lot of things have to be factored in pricing a set…. it’s not just the quality and material itself and the “safety” the story is mentioning… A huge factor is the branding and loyalties. If LEGO sets are licensed.. Mario, Porsche, Ferrari, Star Wars etc… they are definitely multi million dollar contracts… MOST definitely this will roll down to the set’s price…. and it is justified and not a rip off because it is LEGIT. I do not make 6 figures a year but I save up enough to be able to get the sets that I like when they come out regardless of the price. You would agree and understand if you are a true collector and not just another buyer.

  • lepin hater December 4, 2020, 2:56 AM

    If it wasn’t for Lepin I wouldn’t have the first three modulars. You’d have to be a fool to buy them from a Lego scalper. I will say they were wrong in counterfeiting currently released models though.

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