You can get a simple rotary wing aircraft made from Danish terminal blocks for around ten euros. Unclear what is meant by this? How about this: A Lego helicopter doesn’t always have to be expensive. That sounds a lot more understandable, doesn’t it? In everyday language, certain terms sometimes prevail better than others. In this case, that could mean that Lego is so well known for its colorful stones that the brand name has become a generic term for such toys – similar to Tempo for paper tissues or hairdryers for hair dryers. Actually something good for such a company, one might think, as it shows the success of its products and broad market power.
However, some companies see it very differently. Lego, too: The billion-dollar company sees its trademark rights at risk from a Frankfurt dealer and Youtuber who sells terminal block sets from various manufacturers, puts them together in videos and reviews them. His name is Thomas Panke, and he’s out and about in his shop and on the Internet as the “hero of the stones”. He now got mail from a law firm that represents the Lego group. Again, you have to say: Lego took action against Panke before, in 2019 he had to change his logo, on which the typical knobs of terminal blocks could be seen.
This time, according to Panke, Lego sent an urgent request to delete some videos: he discusses construction sets from various manufacturers and calls the small plastic bricks “Lego” in several places – he apparently uses the word as a generic term. But this misleads users, says Lego, and damages the brand. When asked, the company only announced that users, mistakenly assuming that they were branded Lego products, could buy “a security-endangering imitation”.
Well, Thomas Panke sees it a little differently. He has published a video about it that has been viewed more than 2.1 million times. In it, he deals with the allegations partly seriously, partly ironically: he will of course delete the videos in question and record them again without using the word “Lego” for the terminal blocks shown. But a risk of confusion is actually excluded, after all, buyers would notice just by looking at the price tag and quality that it was not Lego. And that’s not a compliment: Like many other long-term customers and fans, Panke repeatedly criticizes that new Lego sets are becoming more and more expensive, while quality is falling.
Lego often comes off badly in these reviews, which are clicked hundreds of thousands of times. Most recently, Panke compared two red sports car models – one from Cada Master, one from Lego Technic. His conclusion: the remote-controlled Cada model with LED lights not only looks better and is cleverly designed, it is also much better equipped than the Lego model without all these electronic functions – but both cost around 180 euros.
The video review of the Lego model was titled “The Worst Ferrari in the World”. Harsh criticism that the company has to take again and again. Are these disputes perhaps only superficially about trademark rights and the question of whether Lego is, so to speak, the pace of the terminal blocks? Panke prefers to leave the assessment to the audience before the next letter comes from the lawyer.