HBS’s The Lego Group: Publish or Protect?
Innovation and Intellectual Property Project
Lego Group is the worlds’ fourth largest toy manufacturer. Their core product is a construction play design which allows for bricks to interlock together to design pre-designed or unique creations. In terms of volume and precision, the company relays on their core competence of “high volume precision molding” and has developed further strategies and technologies to ensure their growth and success in the area. The company is therefore faced with the difficulty in deciding how to protect this internal process and technology. Should this information be patented, kept as a ...view middle of the document...
In this case we must analyze what makes most sense for Lego and their manufacturing and technology use purposes. Therefore there has been an analysis on what they have already patented and if this technology process also makes sense to protect under intellectual property.
One of their first patents passed in October 1961, three years after the initial filing date was the concept of the Toy Building Brick. “This invention relates to toy building elements and more particularly to toy building bricks or blocks adapted to be connected together by means of projections extending from the faces of the elements and arranged so as to engage protruding portions of an adjacent element when two such elements are assembled- Toy elements of this kind will be referred to generally as building bricks, and the principal object of the invention is to provide improved coupling means for clamping such building bricks together in any desired relative position thus providing for a vast variety' of combinations of the bricks for making toy structures of many different kinds and shapes.” The full patent will not be cited, but a main aspect of this paper is to find out exactly what DOES make sense for Lego, and this here is the perfect example of a positive play on IP and protecting an invention that was created by the company that could not simply be published nor kept a trade secret as it is their main product that they offer to companies.
Patent or Trade Secret:
What is a patent? An exclusive right granted for an invention, which is a product or a process that provides, in general, a new way of doing something, or offers a new technical solution to a problem. In order to be patentable, the invention must fulfill certain conditions.
What is the goal for Lego Group?
After launching their Future Molding Program they were faced with the challenge of strong volume increase demands. The company was finding themselves with stock outages before Christmas leaving their customer unsatisfied. Their main goals were to increase overall volume, increase factory floor space along with improving their efforts in sustainability by lowering power consumption minimize waste and provide a better working environment for their employees. The main focus was now to move from quality control to quality assurance which implied greater emphasis on process control.
To fulfill this process control goal they enforced two technical changes that presented themselves as great opportunities yet proposed challenges for Lego. First there is the shift from hydraulic drive molding machines into electric drive machines. One of the benefits being the power consumption reduction which would benefit the sustainability goal. Further analysis was made to find out if the process control was overall more efficient with electric drive molding machines.
Secondly the company’s change toward manufacturing which focused on a specific process called selective laser sintering which was...