Toy stories: the case of Lego versus Mega Bloks

It’s not every day that you will find Osgoode professors going head-to-head in the Supreme Court of Canada but that will be the case today when the appeal of the Mega Bloks versus Lego case will be heard.

Left: Lego building set

Osgoode Hall Law School Professor Bruce Ryder will be arguing the constitutional points for Mega Bloks. Former dean and Professor Emeritus Peter Hogg, who is now with Blake, Cassels and Graydon LLP, will be presenting Lego’s constitutional argument, along with Osgoode adjunct faculty member and Blakes lawyer Catherine Beagan Flood (LLB ’97).

This “David versus Goliath” trademarks case raises important constitutional issues about the scope of Parliament’s jurisdiction to pass laws providing civil remedies against unfair competition. At stake is the constitutional validity of the civil remedy for the tort of “passing off” set out in Section 7(b) of the Federal Trademarks Act, explained Osgoode Hall Law School Dean Patrick Monahan in a memo to the Osgoode community.

Right: Mega Bloks building set

Lego’s patent on the coupling studs in its toy bricks expired in 1988. A year later, Mega Bloks – a Quebec-based toy manufacturer – began marketing a similar product. Lego is arguing that Mega Bloks is violating its trademark rights by selling toy bricks with coupling studs in a way that causes confusion in the marketplace. Mega Bloks is arguing that there can be no trademark rights in functional attributes of goods. Mega Bloks prevailed before the Federal Court. Lego then successfully sought leave to appeal to the Supreme Court.

CBC Radio’s morning news show “The Current” has created a 25-minute segment providing background to the case. It is available by clicking here.