Parrallel importing of Lego into Israel – IP infringement or fair trading?

Despite being made in Denmark, Lego is much more expensive – two or three times the price – in Israel than in the US. It’s not taxes that are at fault. Retail toyshops compete with each other and they are not the problem either. The problem is apparently, at least according to the retailers,  the greedy authorized importer.

Riding on the wave of campaigners for social justice, the Israel franchise of Toys R US have threatened to bypass the authorized importer and to import Lego in parallel, thereby driving the prices down so that, as they put it, everyone can afford Lego, not just rich children.

I have some sympathy with the exploited classes. As a parent of an eight year old boy, I had to buy and bring back to Israel a Lego castle from INTA in San Francisco last year. None of the exhibitors were giving out Lego, so I actually went to a toy shop and bought the damn thing. I would have preferred Hogwarts but Matan had other ideas and thought that the toy was primarily for him.

I therefore would tend to see parallel imports of staple products like Lego as being in the public interest, and would see attempts of an importer licensee  to attack parallel imports of trademarked goods with a jaundiced eye. I am not sure how the Israel courts will view the issue, but suspect that we will learn shortly.

Categories: design, famous marks, Intellectual Property, Israel Trademark, trademarks

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