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Intellectual Property and Lego

Gerard Magliocca

Gerard N. Magliocca is the Samuel R. Rosen Professor at the Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law. Professor Magliocca is the author of three books and over twenty articles on constitutional law and intellectual property. He received his undergraduate degree from Stanford, his law degree from Yale, and joined the faculty after two years as an attorney at Covington and Burling and one year as a law clerk for Judge Guido Calabresi on the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. Professor Magliocca has received the Best New Professor Award and the Black Cane (Most Outstanding Professor) from the student body, and in 2008 held the Fulbright-Dow Distinguished Research Chair of the Roosevelt Study Center in Middelburg, The Netherlands. He was elected to the American Law Institute (ALI) in 2013.

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3 Responses

  1. Margaret Tarkington says:

    Gerard-
    As a consumer–meaning a mother of children who love Legos–it is an understatement to say that “Lego is very good at making the blocks.” We buy Legos and we buy Mega Blocks (because Mega Blocks has purchased some rights to some popular franchises as well, such as Thomas the Train and Hello Kitty, which my children want) and sometimes other generic makers of such blocks. Legos are the ONLY brand that really work. They hold together, but they still come apart when you want them too. Sound simple, but apparently it is much harder to make perfect plastic blocks than you would think. Lego’s competitors cannot seem to do it–the blocks either stick together (and it is extremely hard to get them apart once you put them together) or they fall apart at the slightest touch–so much so that it is hard to build anything because you have to put some pressure on the block to build with them. It is EXTREMELY frustrating for little children to have their creations fall apart while they are trying to build it still. So while other block makers also buy rights to franchises, I would place the key to Lego’s success entirely in their quality control. Their products are always perfect–they fit together perfectly, they stay together enought to play with something you build, and they come apart when you want them to.

  2. Margaret Tarkington says:

    Sorry about the typos. It should have said “Sounds simple” and “enough” (not “enought”).

  3. Joe says:

    I’m always a fan of your posts, Professor Magliocca; and I agree with everything you have said in this one — but if I may add one point: not only does Lego design the individual bricks well and engage in clever marketing, but the actual set designs are usually well put together too. Typically they utilize fairly advanced building techniques or use bricks in unusual ways to create unexpected effects.

    Indeed, the designs of the 2010s are are somewhat at a high point. For a more thorough comparison of builds through the decades I highly recommend a blog I stumbled upon titled “Deconstructing Plastic Bricks.” You can really appreciate the evolution of the build designs in the post on Crane Trucks:

    http://www.deconstructingplasticbricks.blogspot.com/2010/06/6446-crane-truck.html