With so many LEGO® brick creators, LEGO® related software packages, LEGO® movies, LEGO® content creators and more, the word ‘LEGO®’ gets used almost daily by thousands of people. The owners of this trademarked name can be quite strict about its use, and unauthorised use of it can cause trouble.
This post lists the things to know before using the word LEGO® in/on a movie/video, book, website, building instructions or software applications.
The word LEGO® is a registered trademark
Many of us use the word LEGO synonymously with LEGO bricks: “My child went to the doctor because he/she swallowed a LEGO”, “He made a LEGO truck” or “How to build with LEGO”. The word LEGO on its own is actually a registered trademarked name of the LEGO Group of companies. The LEGO Group reckons that it is incorrect and legally and technically not allowed to use only the trademarked name to refer to the bricks.
In its simplest form, the reason for LEGO making a fuss about this technicality is to prevent popularisation of the term to such an extent that it becomes a ‘genericised trademark’ – in which case its trademark protection will be at risk for legal removal. This would allow competitors to use the genericised trademark for their own products.
The LEGO Group also has various other trademarks.
LEGO® bricks are copyrighted to the LEGO Group
Since the expiration of the last standing LEGO patent in 1989, a number of companies have produced interlocking plastic bricks that are similar to LEGO bricks. Plastic brick producing competitors who use the word LEGO in any way to describe or sell their products run the risk of being sued by the LEGO Group.
Using the word LEGO in your content
The LEGO Group has an extensive set of guidelines – called their “fair play policy” – that can be followed to be able to use the word LEGO. Depending on the content they cover, three different versions of the fair play policy exist. They are the LEGO FairPlay brochure, the LEGO website Fair Play document and the LEGO books policy. The FairPlay brochure is available for download from the website address above, but the books policy is only available upon request from the LEGO Group.
This is maybe not such a big issue with everyday LEGO brick users, but more for creators. If you want to use the word LEGO as any part of a movie/video, product, book, website, building instructions, software or printed material, it is a good idea to go through these documents. LEGO’s rights can be summarised as follows:
- The ® symbol should always be to next to the word LEGO, i.e. LEGO®. The ® symbol is not used in the company name, e.g. the LEGO Group. Apart from the title and heading, the ® symbol can be omitted for repeated instances of the word.
- Their trademark is always to be written in capital letters, i.e. LEGO. Never use Lego or lego.
- Their trademark name should not be emphasised or isolated.
- A noun should always be used after the trademark name, i.e. LEGO bricks, LEGO creations or LEGO values. Never use LEGOs or the hyphenated LEGO-bricks.
- Don’t refer to any of your own LEGO creations as LEGO’s creations. LEGO does not want you to use possessives in their name, i.e. LEGO’s designs.
- Don’t refer to any of LEGO’s creations/instruction manuals as your own creations.
- The word LEGO is not to be used as part of domain or sub-domain names, i.e. www.mylegocreations.com or http://creations.lego.com, or part of the name of a software application.
- If you publish anything LEGO-related, a disclaimer must be added:
To use the word LEGO in the title of a book, article or movie/video, it either needs to be written as a description, e.g. my guide to building cars with LEGO® bricks, or contain the word ‘unofficial’. The word ‘unofficial’ needs to stand out in some way.
Referring to non-LEGO bricks in your content
Popular words that could be used for plastic brick-related content are bricks, brick models, brickfilm, brick movie, plastic bricks, blocks and block models.
Because not all bricks and blocks are LEGO bricks, the LEGO Group cannot prevent the use of the words such as bricks, etc. LEGO is very sensitive about their brick quality, so it would be a really bad idea to refer to non-LEGO bricks as LEGO bricks. Unfortunately, there are many LEGO brick clones, which, strictly speaking, are considered illegal in many countries – maybe not a good idea to use the word LEGO with these either.
Remember that other plastic brick producing companies might have similar trademarks and copyright protections for their products too.
Other things that have to be considered, but are not mentioned here, are that the LEGO Group owns copyright on many of their 3D designs too. These might be country dependent, but include the LEGO brick design, LEGO minifigure and the LEGO knob configuration.
LEGO also has many other trade names, for which the same guidelines as mentioned in this article exists. These include, but are not limited to, LEGO® MINDSTORMS® and LEGO® DUPLO®.