Sun, Apr 28, 2019 - Page 5 News List

Chinese police smash US$30 million fake Lego ring

‘EXTREMELY SIMILAR’:The counterfeiters copied Lego blueprints and sent them to a factory with more than 10 assembly lines and 90 molds to produce the knockoffs

AFP, BEIJING

A counterfeit “Star Wnrs” brick toy set manufactured by Chinese company Lepin is pictured in Beijing on Nov. 6 last year.

Photo: AFP

Chinese police have dismantled a ring accused of manufacturing about US$30 million of counterfeit Lego sold across the country, authorities said on Friday.

Police earlier this week raided the premises of Lepin — a Chinese toymaker manufacturing Lego knockoffs in the southern city of Shenzhen — arresting four people, Shanghai police said.

“In October 2018, the Shanghai police found that Lepin building blocks available on the market were extremely similar to that of Lego,” police said in a statement.

The toys were copied from Lego blueprints and sent to a factory in Shenzhen to be manufactured before they were sold all over China.

“Across more than 10 assembly lines, over 90 molds had been produced ... [police seized] some 630,000 completed pieces worth more than 200 million yuan [US$29.72 million],” the statement said.

Images from the Tuesday raid — posted on official law enforcement social media accounts — showed molds and boxes that looked remarkably similar to lines produced by the Danish toy giant.

A Star Wars knockoff is called “Star Plan,” while sets released in conjunction with the Lego Movie 2 have also been copied and sold under the name “The Lepin Bricks 2.”

The counterfeit products could be a safety concern for consumers, Lego China and Asia-Pacific vice president Robin Smith was quoted as saying by the official Xinhua news agency.

Foreign companies have long complained about lax intellectual property enforcement in China, where counterfeiting is rampant.

In an attempt to end a trade spat with Washington, Beijing has pledged to clamp down on intellectual property infringements.

The knockoffs are popular in a price-conscious market: A small city-themed Lepin set retails for US$3 a box, whereas similar Lego sets start at US$15.

A check by reporters showed that the imitation sets were still available on e-commerce platform Taobao yesterday afternoon.

The Danish toy giant in February opened its first flagship store in Beijing — which features replicas of the Forbidden City made of plastic bricks — and has two other shops in Shanghai.

Lego has in the past few years seen a renewed popularity thanks to premium collectors’ editions and a movie tie-up.

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