Protecting ‘LEGO’

Cory Doctorow whines a bit over at BoingBoing about the Lego company’s redirect from, and the accompanying bit of trademark defence. Might be just me here, but I don’t see a whole lot on the redirect page there which ‘scolds you viciously’, and the BoingBoing whine seems a lot more whiny. I don’t know what legal backup might exist, but the Lego text reads to me like a gentle request, and Wikipedia’s entry for Lego claims that essentially the same text was printed on Lego catalogues as far back as the 1970s.

Personally, as I’ve burbled about before, I’m far more interested in how the usage of ‘Legos’ as a count noun came about, because I have no memory of hearing it used that way until I began coming to the US. I wonder if the fact that Lego is considered to be something for kids is a factor. There’s a Parent Gene somewhere which I reckon prefers count nouns to mass nouns when engaged, even unconsciously, in child language development. Parents don’t talk to young children using the mass (and abstract) noun ‘money’. They use the count noun ‘pennies’: ‘How many pennies do you have?’; ‘Do you have enough pennies?’ Maybe that’s one reason ‘Legos’ hits me at an odd angle: not because of the Lego people’s dislike for it, but because it sounds a bit juvenile, like it’s baby-talk for those who haven’t quite mastered abstract concepts yet.


  • I suspect they are always worried about losing their trademark protection – just as Kimberly-Clark has to fight to retain “Kleenex” as a brand name, given the American use of it as a generic word for tissues. There are any number of other types of plastic building bricks and blocks that would probably love to see Lego lose that brand name protection.
    In fact, many children do refer to any of the varieties of building blocks as Legos… one has to wonder if Legos is trademarked separately? I suppose there is a way to research it – I have no idea what it would be.
    Perhaps if we spelled it LEGOs instead of Legos or LEGOS, they’d be less fussy. But I doubt it.

  • Perhaps they are trying to ward off more atrocious tv commercials on the order of “Le’go my Eggo”….
    Boingboing sounded whiney to me.
    My mass noun/ count noun whine is that people seem to be losing that distinction. I find it very grating, but it doesn’t seem to bother lots of people (or should I say “a huge amount of people”) Blech! And yes, the check-out line labelled “15 items or less” bothers me, too.

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