BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific

BBC News World Edition
    You are in: Business  
News Front Page
Middle East
South Asia
Market Data
Talking Point
Country Profiles
In Depth
BBC Sport
BBC Weather
 Tuesday, 21 January, 2003, 13:16 GMT
Lego defeats the Chinese pirates
A girl playing with Lego bricks
Children first got their hands on Lego bricks in 1958
Danish toy-maker Lego Company has won a landmark court ruling in China to protect its copyright against fake versions of its famous brick-shaped toys.

Lego lawyer Henrik Jacobsen displays counterfeit products
Lego's lawyer shows off the fakes

The Beijing High People's Court ruled in favour of Lego in a court battle which began in 1999 after Lego spotted made-in-China copies of some of its castles and pirate ship designs.

Lego said it was "the first time that the Chinese legal system has delivered a judgment that confirms copyright protection of industrial design/applied art".

China pledged itself to uphold international patent laws when it joined the World Trade Organisation in 2001 after 13 years of talks in which China's lax copyright protection system often proved a sticking point.

'Remarkable ruling'

The court ruled that Coko Toy Company, based in the northern Chinese city of Tianjin, must halt production of the items and turn over its moulds to court officials to be destroyed, said Lego.

Harry Potter film
Boy wizard Harry Potter also fell under the fakers' spell

Coko was also ordered to publish an official apology in the Beijing Daily newspaper and pay a fine to Lego, the Danish firm said.

"This is a remarkable ruling, which is sure to play an important role in the future as more and more companies currently have to watch copies of their products being sold in China," said Lego's lawyer Henrik Jacobsen.

In a BBC interview, Mr Jacobsen declined to say how much Lego would receive in fines, but described the sum as "pocket expenses".

The ruling found Lego's copyright over 33 out of 53 items in the case had been infringed.

Lego is known for aggressively defending its copyright to the stick-together bricks, whose success with children is partly a consequence of their simple design.

Still suing

Lego said it was currently pursuing legal actions in Norway, Finland and Denmark against importers of copy products from the same Chinese firm.

China's authorities have worked hard to create a framework of laws to protect intellectual property rights, part of wider efforts to promote the authority of the courts in commercial disputes.

Despite substantial progress, foreign analysts say there are still major problems enforcing central government policy in China's huge provinces.

Double protection

The Beijing court judgement makes it possible to gain "double protection" under Chinese law, Lego said on its website.

It allows the company to register its designs as well as gaining copyright protection for the products involved in the court case.

Lego is not the only producer of children's toys and entertainment to encounter problems in China; boy wizard Harry Potter also fell under the fakers' spell.

Last year, a copycat Harry Potter novel circulating via Beijing street markets sparked a complaint from the agents for author JK Rowling.

  Henrik Jacobsen, Lego's lawyer
"It's quite similar to our products."
  Mark Gregory, BBC Business Reporter
"Lego filed the legal action three years ago..."



Case studies
See also:

04 Jul 02 | Entertainment
02 Feb 02 | Media reports
11 Jul 02 | England
20 Jan 03 | Business
Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Business stories are at the foot of the page.

 E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Business stories

© BBC ^^ Back to top

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East |
South Asia | UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature |
Technology | Health | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |