The Lego Group
|Founded||Billund, Denmark (1932)|
|Founder||Ole Kirk Christiansen|
|Jørgen Vig Knudstorp, CEO
Kjeld Kirk Kristiansen, vice-chairman and majority shareholder
|Revenue||US$4.7 billion (2013) |
|US$1.6 billion (2013)|
|US$1.1 billion (2013)|
|Owner||KIRKBI A/S 75%
Lego Foundation 25%
Number of employees
The company was founded in 1932 by Ole Kirk Christiansen. The word Lego is derived from the Danish words "leg godt", meaning "play well". The word "lego" also means "I put together" in Latin, and "I connect" or "I tie" in Italian. In the first half of 2014 the Lego Group became the world's largest toy company by market value, surpassing Mattel.
The history of Lego spans nearly 100 years, beginning with the creation of small wooden playthings during the early 20th century. Manufacturing of plastic lego bricks began in Denmark in 1947, but since has grown to include factories throughout the world. Today, the company is an iconic brand.
Trademark and patents
Since the expiration of the last standing Lego patent in 1989, a number of companies have produced interlocking bricks that are similar to Lego bricks. The toy company Tyco Toys produced such bricks for a time; other competitors include Mega Bloks and Coko. These competitor products are typically compatible with Lego bricks, and are marketed at a lower cost than Lego sets.
One such competitor is Coko, manufactured by Chinese company Tianjin Coko Toy Co., Ltd. In 2002, Lego Group Swiss subsidiary Interlego AG sued the company for copyright infringement. A trial court found many Coko bricks to be infringing; Coko was ordered to cease manufacture of the infringing bricks, publish a formal apology in the Beijing Daily, and pay a small fee in damages to Interlego. On appeal, the Beijing High People's Court upheld the trial court's ruling.
Also in 2003, a large shipment of Lego-like products marketed under the name "Enlighten" was seized by Finland customs authorities. The packaging of the Enlighten products was similar to official Lego packaging. Their Chinese manufacturer failed to appear in court, and thus Lego won a default action ordering the destruction of the shipment. Lego Group footed the bill for the disposal of the 54,000 sets, citing a desire to avoid brand confusion and protect consumers from potentially inferior products.
In 2004 Best-Lock Construction Toys defeated a patent challenge from Lego in the Oberlandesgericht, Hamburg.
The Lego Group has attempted to trademark the "Lego Indicia", the studded appearance of the Lego brick, hoping to stop production of Mega Bloks. On 24 May 2002, the Federal Court of Canada dismissed the case, asserting the design is functional and therefore ineligible for trademark protection. The Lego Group's appeal was dismissed by the Federal Court of Appeal on 14 July 2003. In October 2005, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that "Trademark law should not be used to perpetuate monopoly rights enjoyed under now-expired patents." and held that Mega Bloks can continue to manufacture their bricks.
Because of fierce competition from copycat products, the company has always responded by being proactive in their patenting and has over 600 United States granted design patents to their name.
Lego acknowledges the impact of its operations on the environment, in particular in areas such as climate change, resource and energy use and waste. All manufacturing sites are certified according to the environmental standard ISO 14001 and the company has pledged that 100% of its energy will be balanced by renewable energy sources by 2020. The company claims to recycle 90% of its waste and that it had made its operations nearly one-third more energy efficient over the five-year period ending 31 December 2013. It is seeking alternatives to crude oil as the raw material for its bricks.
In 2011, Lego bowed to pressure from the environmental campaigning organization Greenpeace, reportedly agreeing to drop supplier Asia Pulp and Paper, and pledging to only use packaging material certified by the Forest Stewardship Council in future. The environmental group had accused Lego, Hasbro, Mattel and Disney of using packaging material sourced from trees cleared out of the Indonesian rainforest.
Lego partnered with the oil company Royal Dutch Shell in the 1960s, using the company's logo in some of its construction sets. This partnership continued until the 1990s, and was renewed again in 2011. In July 2014, Greenpeace launched a global campaign to persuade Lego to cease producing toys carrying the oil company Shell’s logo in response to Shell’s plans to drill for oil in the Arctic. Shell’s PR company valued the most recent two-year deal with Lego at $116 million, and reported that Shell achieved a 7.5% worldwide sales uplift during the promotion video from Iris International. Greenpeace says Lego confirmed to them that a further co-promotion between Shell and Lego has been agreed to start this year[when?].
As of August 2014, more than 750,000 people worldwide had signed a Greenpeace petition asking Lego to end its partnership with Shell. Lego responded saying they "expect that Shell lives up to their responsibilities wherever they operate" and that they "intend to live up to the long term contract with Shell, which we entered into in 2011." Meanwhile, Greenpeace produced a video campaigning against the Shell partnership; it received extensive press coverage  and was viewed more than six million times on YouTube. In October 2014, Lego announced that it would not be renewing its promotional contract with Royal Dutch Shell but did not say when the existing deal with Shell expires. Greenpeace claimed the decision was in response to its campaigning.
In January 2014, a handwritten letter to Lego from a seven-year-old American girl, Charlotte Benjamin, received widespread attention in the media. In it the young author complained that there were "more Lego boy people and barely any Lego girls" and observed that "all the girls did was sit at home, go to the beach, and shop, and they had no jobs, but the boys went on adventures, worked, saved people … even swam with sharks".
In June 2014, it was announced that Lego would be launching a new "Research Institute" collection featuring female scientists including a women chemist, palaeontologist, and astronomer. The science-themed project was selected as the latest Lego Ideas winner, and was submitted by Dr Ellen Kooijman, a geochemist in Stockholm. Lego denied claims that the set was introduced to placate criticism of the company by feminists, pointing to its Lego Ideas origins. The Research Institute range sold out within a week of its online release in August 2014. The BBC’s Tom de Castella reported that Kooijman was pleased with the set’s final design, despite the addition of face make-up to her original proposal, and that Becky Francis, professor of education and social justice at King's College London, who had been "very, very disappointed" by Lego Friends, is a fan.
The Lego Group built four amusement parks around the world, known as "Legoland". Each park features large-scale Lego models of famous landmarks and miniature Lego models of famous cities, along with Lego themed rides. The first Legoland park was built in Lego's home town of Billund in Denmark. This was followed by Legoland Windsor in England, Legoland California in Carlsbad, US and Legoland Deutschland in Günzburg, Germany. In addition, Legoland Sierksdorf was opened in 1973, but soon closed in 1976.
In July 2005, The Lego Group announced that it had reached a deal with private investment company the Blackstone Group to sell all four parks for €375m to the Blackstone subsidiary Merlin Entertainments. Under the terms of the deal, The Lego Group would take a 30% share in Merlin Entertainments and positions on their board. The sale of the theme parks was part of a wider strategy to restructure the company to focus on the core business of toy products.
In 2010, Merlin Entertainments opened the first Legoland water park at the Legoland California site.
On 15 October 2011, Merlin Entertainments opened their first new Legoland park, Legoland Florida, in Winter Haven, Florida. It is the largest Legoland opened to date at 145 acres, and also only the second Legoland opened in the United States. The second Legoland water park was opened near the same location on 26 May 2012 after only 4 months of construction.
Merlin Entertainments opened their second new Legoland park in Nusajaya, Johor, Malaysia under the name Legoland Malaysia on 22 September 2012. It is the first Legoland in Asia and was quickly followed by another Lego-themed water park in the same area. The first Lego hotel is also planned to open near the park in the first half of 2014.
Merlin Entertainments has also planned several new Legoland parks: Legoland Dubailand, Legoland Nagoya (scheduled to open in 2015), and Legoland Korea (also scheduled to open in 2015). In addition, they have opened four new Legoland Discovery Centres, which take the Legoland concept and scale it down to suit a retail park environment.
October 2002 saw a significant change in The Lego Group's direct retail policy with the opening of the first so-called Lego Brand Store in Cologne, Germany. The second, in Milton Keynes, UK, followed quickly – several dozen more opened worldwide over the next few years, and most of the existing stores have been remodelled on the new Brand Store template. One of the distinctive features of these new stores is the inclusion of a "Pick-A-Brick" system that allows customers to buy individual bricks in bulk quantities. How a customer buys Lego pieces at a Pick-A-Brick is quite simple: customers fill a large or small cup or bag with their choice of Lego bricks from a large and varied selection and purchase it. The opening of most of these stores, including the 2003 opening of one in the Birmingham Bull Ring shopping centre in England, have been marked by the production of a new, special, limited edition, commemorative Lego DUPLO piece. Lego opened the first brand store in its home country Denmark in Copenhagen on 13 December 2010. There are 2 stores in Austria, 1 store in Belgium, 12 stores in Germany, 13 stores in the United Kingdom, 3 stores in France, and 1 store in Denmark for a total of 32 stores in Europe.
In 1992, when the Mall of America opened in Bloomington, Minnesota, one of its premier attractions was the Lego Imagination Center (LIC). An imagination center is a large Lego store with displays of Lego sculptures and a play area with bins of bricks to build with. The store inventory includes a large selection of Lego sets for sale, including sets which are advertised in Lego catalogues as "Not Available In Any Store." A second imagination center opened at the Downtown Disney at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. Between 1999 and 2005, Lego opened 24 further stores in North America in 23 states. As of 2013, there are 68 Lego stores operating or soon-to-be operating in North America in 27 U.S. States and 3 Canadian Provinces. These stores sell various Lego merchandise, including minifigures, Pick-a-Brick, and custom packaged minifigures.
In 2003, The Lego Group faced a budget deficit of 1.4 billion DKK (220 million USD at then current exchange rates; equal to EUR 175 million), causing Poul Plougmann to be replaced by Kjeld Kirk Kristiansen as president. In the following year, almost one thousand employees were laid off, due to budget cuts. However, in October, 2004, on reporting an even larger deficit, Kristiansen also stepped down as president, while placing 800 million DKK of his private funds into the company.
In 2005, The Lego Group reported a 2004 net loss of DKK 1,931 million on a total turnover, including Legoland amusement parks, of DKK 7,934 million.
For 2005, the company returned a profit of DKK 702 million, having increased its revenue by 12% to DKK 7,050 million in 2005 against DKK 6,315 million in 2004. It also cut expenditures and disposed of amusement parks and a factory in Switzerland.
In 2011, sales for the company grew 11%, rising from $2.847 billion in 2010 to $3.495 billion in 2011. Profit for 2011 fiscal year increased from $661 million to $776 million. The increased profit was due to the enormous popularity of the new brand Ninjago, which became the company's biggest product introduction ever.
2012 saw a 25% rise in revenue over the previous year. More than 60% of its profit was helped by new product launches such as Friends. It was also reported that The Lego Group had become the world's most valuable toy company ahead of Mattel with a value at over $14.6 billion.
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- Henry Wiencek, The World of Lego Toys. Harry N. Abrams, Inc., Publishers, New York. ISBN 0-8109-2362-9.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Lego.|
- Official website
- LEGO Group corporate information from the company's official website
- U.S. patent for the original Lego brick