16 July 2021

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Lego has taken action in the United States of America (USA) to prevent sales of an ‘irresponsible’ customisation kit for making real guns resemble children’s toys.

Culper Precision, based in Utah, had been marketing its ‘Block19’ on Instagram as an upgrade to genuine Glock19 handguns, disguising them with bright colours and plastic studs to look like they were made from Lego bricks.

Despite a staggering 30% increase in American gunshot deaths involving children during 2020, Culper saw no harm in making and selling real firearms designed to ‘look like the Legos you got from Santa’. It took a cease-and-desist letter from Lego, and a sanity check from their own lawyers, for them to reconsider. Even then, they seem to have done so reluctantly, citing consumer choice and constitutional rights as justification for their actions.

It is crucial for brand owners such as Lego to be able to retain exclusive control over how their brands are marketed and commercialised. External interference can erode a brand’s reputation, emotional connection and - ultimately - value. Regardless of anyone’s Second Amendment rights (which, of course, apply only inside the USA), Lego was quite right to react in this manner against an unwarranted misuse of its brand capital. Lego is about toys and play, not death or politics, and its founder, Ole Kirk Christiansen, was famously pacifist.

Details of Lego’s letter to Culper have not been made public, but their arguments are likely to have relied on their registered trade marks, as well as their goodwill in the shape, colour, and configuration of their products.

Culper promoted ‘Block19’ with the rather lame joke that ‘the second amendment [should] simply be too painful to tread on’. In response, Lego has (if you will forgive an equally lame pun) come down on them like a ton of bricks.

This memo presents an overview and commentary of the subject matter. It is not provided in the context of a solicitor-client relationship and no duty of care is assumed or accepted. It does not constitute legal advice.

© Moulis Legal 2021