About the iconic Lego Man design
Lego was named the most powerful brand in 2015 and again in 2017 by Forbes. Lego has also been voted Toy of the Century by the British Association of Toy Retailers (BATR) in 2000. It is amazing how a simple building block has won the hearts of the people over so many years.
How it all began
The Lego Group was started by Ole Kirk Christiansen and had a very humble beginning. Christiansen’s company designed its first iconic interlocking brick in 1949. The name Lego, which means short for "play well" in Danish (Leg Godt) had been officially registered in Demark in 1954 and Lego group started exporting to Sweden in 1955, and established its first foreign sales company in Germany in 1956.
In 1958, Ole Kirk passed away and his son Godtfred Kirk Christiansen takes over the company. That year, Lego’s current 'stud and tube' coupling system was patented. This coupling system made bricks more stable and offered more combination possibilities to the blocks.
Iconic Lego Man revealed to the world
It wasn’t until 1978 that Lego first introduced its iconic mini figure. The idea of adding a mini figure was first thought of by Jens Nygaard Knudsen, a Lego designer. Knudsen realized that the Lego World should have inhabitants. The earlier Lego set consisted of Lego Bricks for buildings, cars, and landscape. The first Lego mini figure was a smiling policeman and over the years, it was followed by other mini figures to populate Towns, Castles, Space, etc. The Lego man started to be more expressive and the mini figure designs become more intricate and lively. Today, Lego mini-figurines are designed to imitate popular action figures, movie characters, etc.
Lego Man patent
With the expiry of the Lego patent in the US in 1978, it was exposed to a lot of competitors. As the US patent law requires the inventor to disclose all its designs and upon expiry, anyone can use the design. Even before the Lego patent expired in the US, Lego had many competitors in the 60’s and 70’s. Lego, aware that there will be similar products in the market, had patented several other designs of the stud and tube bricks with slight variations. Lego had to fight many legal battles with different companies and in different countries over the trademark or copyright of the original plastic building. Lego lost against Tyco Super Bloks in the US and eventually in other countries as well.
However, the recent EU Court ruling in favor of Lego has been the latest trademark victory for Lego Group. Lego had registered its ‘Lego man patent design’ as a three-dimensional protected trademark. EU Court ruled that Lego figures are protected trademark and cannot be copied. Shapes of a product can be registered as a trademark provided the shape is distinctive and consumers can identify the origin of the product. However, such a trademark cannot serve any technical function. Hence, he EU Court also ruled that - since Lego figures do not serve any technical functions – this are a trademark design.
Lego has continued to enthralled kids with their many and varied new Lego Man designs and by incorporating interesting themes have allowed the young minds to conjure their version of popular films, stories and live out their fantasies.