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Wed, Jan 22, 2003 - Page 12 News List

Lego wins what it calls a landmark court case in China


The Danish manufacturer of colorful snap-together toy building blocks has won a copyright-infringement case in a Chinese court, a development in the anti-piracy fight promised by China's leadership since the country joined the WTO.

The ruling by the Beijing High People's Court is a "landmark" decision, the Lego Co said. "It is the first time that the Chinese legal system has delivered a judgment that confirms copyright protection of industrial design/applied art," the Billund, Denmark-based company said in a news release posted Monday on its Web site.

It also establishes the possibility of gaining "double protection" under China's legal system, the toymaker said. This allows a company to register design protection and simultaneously obtain copyright protection for a product in the courts.

A man who answered the telephone Tuesday at the Beijing High People's Court media department said a case against a toymaker sounded familiar but that he "wasn't clear" which company was involved or what the details were.

Lego, best known for its interlocking plastic building blocks, filed suit in 1999 against a Chinese company, alleging it had copied 53 characteristics of Lego toys, the statement said. It did not identify the company.

The court ruled that 33 of the elements are protected by copyright, which had been infringed by the Chinese design, Lego said.

It ordered the company stop production of the lookalikes and turn over the relevant toy molds to the court so they can be destroyed. Additionally, the company has been ordered to print an official apology in the newspaper and compensate Lego financially, the statement said.

"This is a remarkable ruling, which is sure to play an important role in the future as more and more companies currently have to watch copies of their products being made and sold in China," Henrik G. Jacobsen, Lego's corporate lawyer, said in the company statement.

The lawsuit comes amid repeated promises by Beijing to increase protection for patents, copyrights and other intellectual property.

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