Intellectual Property Insights from Fishman Stewart
Mini Article – Volume 21, Issue 6
LEGO Takes Aim at Customized Handgun
Anyone who has inadvertently stepped barefoot on a Lego® piece understands how lethal they can be! But Lego took on an entirely new level of danger this summer when Culper Precision, a Utah-based company that makes custom modifications for firearms, rolled out a new product: the Block19—a customized semiautomatic Glock firearm covered with Lego pieces. The modifications make the fully functioning handgun resemble a brightly colored children’s toy. See it HERE.
Culper Precision stated that the idea was to “create an opportunity to talk about the enjoyment of shooting sports and the joy that can only be found in marksmanship practice and training.” Critics quickly pointed out that each year thousands of children unintentionally shoot themselves and others, and that children may be enticed to play with handguns that resemble familiar toys.
After receiving a cease-and-desist letter from Lego, Culper Precision halted sales and removed online advertisements of the Block19. Although there is no law that prohibits manufacturers from making guns that resemble toys, there are intellectual property laws that prohibit manufacturers from unauthorized use of trademarks, trade dress, copyrighted works, and patented articles. It is unclear what theory of intellectual property infringement, if any, Lego might have pursued because the contents of the cease-and-desist letter are not publicly known, and Lego’s spokesperson has not responded to media inquiries about the contents of the letter.
Culper Precision joins a growing list of entities that Lego has successfully taken down through legal action or the threat of legal action. Last year, Lego scored a big victory when a court in China sentenced the members of LEPIN to prison for copyright infringement. LEPIN was a nine-person gang that made and sold toys that were similar to Lego toys. The LEPIN ringleader was sentenced to six years in prison and fined 90 million yuan (over $13 million USD). Given this history, perhaps it was wise of Culper Precision to know when it had been outdrawn.
In the next edition of FishBits mini articles, we will step up to the plate and discuss the Cleveland Indians’ new name, “Cleveland Guardians,” and explain how a small roller-derby team is throwing a curve-ball to the Major League Baseball team’s trademark registration.
Published August 27, 2021
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