Ask a LEGO Fan

Legality of Custom Elements

Posted in Marketplace, Product Quality & Safety by lfanquestions on November 12, 2009

Joe writes:


I understand that selling LEGO items can be a sticky situation
legally. My question: under what conditions does LEGO allow sales of
custom-made LEGO-related items?



Dear Joe,

The LEGO Group is very protective of their iconic bricks (ie: red 2×4).  They do not like custom, clone, or competitor elements that have studs which match the same size as LEGO products.

This appears to be somewhat hypocritical since they originally copied the 2×2 brick size, studs, and stud location from Hillary Fisher Page’s Kiddicraft Bricks ( ).  They did not buy out that company until over a quarter century later.

Producing true LEGO Company innovations such as the “tube” design under the bricks and the minifigure would certainly lead to legal disputes even though the copyrights on some of these elements have expired.

A majority of current “custom” elements are minifigure accessories such as modern weapons, castle fantasy elements, historic weaponry, and headgear.  Elements such as these seem to be tolerated since they would not be produced by the company anyway.  Of course fans need to be very clear that their products are not affiliated in any way with TLG.

I believe that most fan innovation is a positive influence.  Dan Siskind and other fans created large custom sets in the early 2000’s.  Now TLG produces a variety of large exclusive sets for AFOLs.  Jeff Byrd of Little Armory Toys created blasters from a galaxy far away.  Later TLG added appropriate blasters to the Star Wars licensed toys.  The guys at BrickForge created pigs, sheep, and cows that fans love.  Soon thereafter TLG made cows and a line of farm sets.  BrickArms sells army figures, modern weapons, and military helmets.  Preview pictures of one Toy Story set for 2010 includes four green army men with helmets.



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