Lego and the System of Intellectual Property, 1955–2015

21 Pages Posted: 10 Mar 2016 Last revised: 29 Mar 2016

See all articles by Dan Hunter

Dan Hunter

Swinburne Law School

Julian Thomas

RMIT University

Date Written: March 7, 2016


This article traces the ways in which Lego has deployed a range of intellectual property regimes since it first developed the Lego system of interlocking bricks in the mid-1950s, in an effort to exert commercial control over its bricks and System of Play. With the bricks initially protected by patent, Lego has, at various times, used copyright, design, trade mark and trade secret laws in an attempt to prevent other firms from marketing competing interlocking bricks. As the patents have expired, Lego has moved from unitary forms of control over the brick, augmenting intellectual property law with more distributed mechanisms of control and governance. The article describes how the law has influenced the broader evolution of the company, where a focus on engineering has broadened into branding, and then digital media.

Keywords: Copyright, Designs, Licensing, Patents, Toys, Trade marks, Trade secrets

Suggested Citation

Hunter, Dan and Thomas, Julian, Lego and the System of Intellectual Property, 1955–2015 (March 7, 2016). Available at SSRN: or

Dan Hunter (Contact Author)

Swinburne Law School ( email )

Cnr Wakefield and William Streets, Hawthorn Victor
3122 Victoria, Victoria 3122

Julian Thomas

RMIT University ( email )

124 La Trobe Street
Melbourne, 3000

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