'LEGO' in domain names

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Brickset, The Brick Fan, Brick Fanatics, BrickShelf, BrickLink... Have you ever wondered why LEGO fan sites never use that four-letter-word in their domain name and instead opt for something generic?

Brickset contributor Paul Mutton has written a paper on the subject which you might find interesting.


Like many brands LEGO does not want websites around that potentially mislead viewers into thinking that they are official, so its Fair Play policy states that: "The LEGO trademark should not be incorporated into an Internet address. [...] Using 'LEGO' in the domain name would be creating the misleading impression that the LEGO Group sponsored the homepage."

LEGO enforces this policy rigorously using the WIPO domain name dispute service and it's interesting to read the cases that have been resolved, virtually always in LEGO's favour. You can view them on the WIPO site by entering 'LEGO' in the 'Search WIPO cases by Domain Name' box.

Policing domain names has become a whole lot harder for companies now that there are so many new top level domains available and this is the subject of Paul's paper LEGO vs Cybersquatters: The burden of new gTLDs.

It's an interesting read, but it's also interesting to reflect that not all companies are so diligent, or perhaps don't care if their names are used in potentially misleading ways. For example, I've been reading NikonRumors.com for years, which not only includes a brand name in its domain name but also uses the same colour palette as the official site.

Right, must dash, I'm off to register lego.review, lego.cricket and lego.wiki which according to GoDaddy are still available... :-)

Image courtesy of Paul Mutton, Netcraft.

27 comments on this article

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By in United States,

Huh. Interesting.

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By in United States,

Great article, very interesting.

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By in Canada,

I had read the fair play policy before I thought of it. Which, then wiped out the chance of me wondering because I already knew...

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By in United States,

The policy was introduced in 1995, although at the time it wasn't published online. LEGO didn't even have a website until March of 1996!

During 1995, LEGO was developing their online strategy. A lot of other websites were out there, which featured the LEGO logo, the LEGO name in their domain, and looked really official. Several of these official-looking sites were mistaken for LEGO's actual website, and often received customer feedback.

Towards the later part of the year, LEGO started taking action. They had decided on a course of action internally, which was not to allow fan websites to prominently feature the LEGO logo, or use the word "LEGO" in the domain. So their team of lawyers started sending out cease-and-desist letters, as well as emails and other communications.

During this process, the LEGO community (on the old rec.toys.lego newsgroup) started talking about how to proceed. How should we make it clear that we're loyal LEGO hobbyists without using the word "LEGO"? There was a lot of discussion among fans (the policy still hadn't really been formally disseminated), and even a little with a few internal employees.

When the LEGO website went live in 1996, the "Fair Play" policy became more official. And what's more, loyal LEGO fans rabidly helped defend it, rather than trying to subvert the rules. Rather than the company taking an active role, many of the fans themselves would send emails to websites who violated the policy.

Gradually, the term "Brick" started getting used in domain names, with "BrickLink", "BrickBay" (later re-named "BrickLink"), "From Bricks to Bothans", "BrickSet", and so forth. The other trend? "LEGO" as part of an acronym, like "LUGNET", "LDRAW", or "MLCAD".

DaveE

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By in United States,

Thanks for that info, Huw. I have wondered about this but figured they had made the cost very high to use their trademarked name. Dave, I appreciate you filling in the blanks as well...good post and great follow up info!

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By in Puerto Rico,

Thanks for the information.

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By in United States,

Great article! Very interesting read. That's the exact reason why my Lego YouTube channel is called ZG Brickfilms and not something like Lego Zac or something.

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By in United States,

@Dave E. Great insights. I like the fact that LEGO Fans defended the fair play policy. How far we have come to where we are fighting against LEGO now and buying counterfeits willingly along with knock off brands that steal intellectual property and ideas from LEGO. This is a sad reality.

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By in United States,

@horde prime:

That hasn't changed all that much. A lot of hobbyists still defend LEGO vigorously. Most of the bigger LEGO fan sites won't publish leaks, the fans won't buy Lepin sets, adamantly despise Mega Bloks, etc.

The part that has changed is that there's now a broader range of fans out there, many of whom aren't fiercely loyal to LEGO. Those people have always been around, but they were never really active online back in, say, 1996. Back then it was mostly only the technically savvy uber-LEGO geeks, who were mostly on the same page as loyal fans.

But even then, there were some who wanted to defy the policy. Perhaps most famously, Steve Jackson (of Steve Jackson Games) wanted to boycott LEGO when they demanded removing the word "LEGO" from the miniatures game "LEGO Wars" (which since mutated into BrikWars).

So, I wouldn't say that the attitude has changed all that much-- but I think these days it's easier to tell that there's a group of people who aren't quite so loyal to the brand.

DaveE

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By in United States,

that is a solid explanation. Today there are more fans and therefore more fan types. agreed.

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By in United States,

Super interesting.

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By in United States,

I had a domain name of Lego4Kaidan.com for years and Lego never told me to hand it over.

It was my oldest son's photoblog for his Lego hobby until he moved on to Pokémon more than Lego.

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By in United States,

@Bustin:

They aren't very pro-active in terms of every single domain that's registered, that's for sure! They can't even legally do very much, like the "Lego" company that makes porcelain in Japan-- They're totally legit, and if they had a site called "legoporcelain.com" or something, it would be fine.

Plus, you've got ... er, "other" meanings. When I joined the hobby, I wanted to make a website called "Legopolis", only to find out that someone else had the domain. And the owner released the domain (thanks to LEGO's Fair Play policy) only to have it scooped up by a porn site who was playing on "leg-opolis" rather than "lego-polis". Also totally legit, I think.

So, they only go after you when:

1) They find out about you
2) They consider it to be an infringement on their policy

My guess is they probably didn't know about your domain, or if they did, couldn't find any LEGO-related content on it immediately and didn't care.

But they may have also decided it's not worth their while if you're not a big site, too. Back in 1995/1996, there were FAR, FAR, FAR fewer domains registered. These days, I'd bet there are way too many for them to actively pursue. It could be it's just not worth their time the way it used to be.

DaveE

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By in United Kingdom,

I suspect they go after those that are obviously registered in 'bad faith' more so than small fan sites who may have included the word in error. I wouldn't want to build up traffic on a site, though, only to have the domain name disputed later on.

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By in United States,

What about YouTube channels? Like say the channel name is legobagel, is that allowed? And what if it is in the link too?
(like what if it says youtube.com/user/legobagel)

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By in Sweden,

I'd assume the major reason LEGO enforces this more strictly than others (like Nikon) is because they have a young audience who aren't as capable of discerning what's official and what isn't.

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By in United Kingdom,

I've had 'Just another Lego blog' for a few years (must start updating it again), but I make it pretty clear that it's nothing to do with TLG at all. With my 8 readers, I suspect I'm not keeping Lego execs awake at night...

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By in United States,

My old Lego site never had "lego" in the domain name, but it was the top directory on the domain. (adequate.com/lego) They wrote to me around 1997 with a VERY legal-sounding demand that I change every occurrence of "Lego" on the site to "LEGO". I ignored it because it was a ridiculous request with no legal requirement for me to capitalize it. They never came back to bug me again.

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By in Switzerland,

It's interesting to see how many people have read and commented on this article as it explores a rather obscure policy which doesn't affect most LEGO enthusiasts.

In writing my book, I learned about another idiosyncrasy of the Fair Play policy — they allow authors and publishers to use "LEGO" in the title of unofficial LEGO books, such as my book "The LEGO Architect" (as well as "The LEGO Neighborhoods" book, "LEGO Adventure Book", "Awesome LEGO Creations", "Incredible LEGO Technic", and many others.)

To dig a little deeper, LEGO allows the word "LEGO" in the title with "®" for any books, but only those books by their official licensees can use the LEGO Logo. (Mostly DK, and a few Klutz books) That's why books from excellent "unofficial" publishers like No Starch Press do not have the LEGO Logo.

The URL Policies in the "Fair Play" agreement are the reason why I chose "brickarchitect.com" and "thebrickarchitect.com" as the website URL's to complement my book. This is a bit confusing for people searching for more information about my book — I really wish "legoarchitect.com" or "thelegoarchitect.com" were allowable as they match the name of my book.

Unfortunately for me, their fair use policy is clear on this issue and I will have to live with a domain name that doesn't quite match my book title.

What other quirks in the Fair Use Policy have affected other LEGO enthusiasts?
---tom

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By in Australia,

@davee`123 My respect for Steve Jackson has dropped dramatically

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By in Finland,

It would be really funny if this site was called "Legoset" instead of Brickset. :D

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By in Singapore,

So... ilovelego.com is out?

I wonder will people even see it as an official site.

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By in Spain,

You'd be surprised what people will think are official LEGO channels. We frequently get requests for official LEGO support or "where to place a direct order with the factory" from companies who somehow believe HispaBrick Magazine is the place to get such information.

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By in United States,

@Lego Creep No need to self-advertise in you question.

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By in United States,

It's always surprised me more with recent websites, since I always assume newer websites are less likely to know what they're doing in this area - but ultimately I'm not as surprised for old-school sites like Brickset. I'm surprised LEGO's legal team is still active about it.

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By in United Kingdom,

I purchased legofan.co.uk in 2013, Lego legal team sent me a letter stating they would pay my costs and would like the domain. I said, give me some Lego vouchers and it is yours - not asking for a value, more so, don't send me cash by PayPal. They said they can not do this, I argued back and forward a few times and then finally gave my PayPal. I did at this point, having lost a little bit of love for Lego, inflate my costs. The external legal team they use through www.cscglobal.com had no heart, they were acting for Lego, they were likely charging Lego a lot to send me an email, but they did not live the Lego philosophy. Anyhow, I took the PayPal cash and of course spent that on Lego... I thought, why not buy a lot of domains with Lego in, use a false name on Whois, ensure the email address attached was valid and wait for the requests, make some extra cash and buy even more Lego!

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