I seem to have received a batch of knock off LEGO pieces from my latest online order. I’ve seen other copycat LEGO brands like KRE-O and no-names from China, but this batch fell somewhere in-between genuine LEGO quality parts and these knock-offs (plus they were advertised as LEGO pieces).
Still, these pieces easily stood out as fakes against the thousands of dollars of real LEGO pieces from several LEGO retail and Education Mindstorm Kits and Expansion Sets, over 3 dozen orders on BrickLink.com and a number of LEGO sets purchased over the years. This high quality of genuine LEGO pieces make it easier to spot fakes.
Here are some amusing LEGO copycats:
( LEGO has exclusive rights to Star Wars merchandise )
( LEGO does not make military models )
( Fake set missing the final “a” in the LEGO created the animated series “Chima” )
( Fake set not missing the final “a” in LEGO “Chima” )
( Definitely non-LEGO Adult-themed custom sets )
Because LEGO is expensive, I always assumed they were protected by patents. What I didn’t realize is that LEGO’s patent expired and they failed in their bid to sue copycat manufactures. Despite losing their patent protection on their basic building bricks, as of 2012 they are a $3.5 billion dollar corporation with their closest competition MEGA at $0.4 billion. Here is an NPR story that examines why LEGO can charge so much more than their competitors for a similar product.
Perhaps the biggest reason LEGO can charge so much more is their insane quality control. This gives LEGO pieces a decent resale value while there is relatively no resale market for knockoffs (unless passed off as LEGO pieces).
Per FIRST LEGO League rules, our robot must be made of 100% LEGO parts. Any non-LEGO parts are grounds for disqualification.
Although the parts I received look identical to LEGO parts and seem to have the right dimensions, they have a dull sheen, are uniformly sticky and seem to be made of a lower quality plastic then genuine LEGO pieces. Although the pieces are new and unmarred, they have a uniformly tacky touch that gives them away (probably due to the plastics used and the injection mold process). Here are three tells that this batch is fake:
Here is a very detailed rundown of the many LEGO copycats and how good/bad they are at quality and set design:
BTW, counterfeit consumer goods account for approximately 5-7% of all world trade ($250 billion in 2007) with about 80% coming from China which rarely enforces intellectual property rights. Products that demand premium prices well above manufacturing costs due to a luxury brand (eg Apple, designer clothes), strict regulation and high quality control (eg pharmaceuticals) or high taxation (eg cigarettes) are copied more frequently. Even counterfeit Ferraris and Porsches find their way onto the roads in Asia and fake electronic components are increasingly discovered in advanced US military systems.