Because there are interests in Lego vs Lepin litigation, I decided to dig out some past court cases that Lego initiated in China. It appears that Legin is not the first bootleg company that Lego sued in China. In 1999, Lego sued Coko and in 2009 Xiaobailong. The outcomes were different in both cases.
For Xiaobailong case, the official court document that I managed to find is this second appeal by Lego in 2013 which was rejected by Beijing Court. For those who read Chinese you can read here: http://wenshu.court.gov.cn/content/content?DocID=f08ccd0a-b647-11e3-84e9-5cf3fc0c2c18&KeyWord=%E4%B9%90%E9%AB%98
The original case was INTERLEGO AG v. Guangdong Xiaobailong Toys Industry Co. & Beijing Huayuan Xidan Shopping Center Co. Ltd., Yi Zhong Min Chu Zi No. 05642 (Beijing No.1 Interm. People’s Ct. 2009) ((2009) 一中民初字第05642号)
So the litigation dragged on from 2009 until 2013, and the final verdict was in defendants favors.
Why did Lego lost the case? The court’s reasoning being
“the Court tried to cast some light by stating that a work must possess a certain height of artistic creation, which shall make the general public view it as a piece of art, for it to satisfy the creativity requirement. However, the general public’s view test is subjective, is difficult to apply, and allows uncertainty to remain.”
However in year 2003, Lego managed to sue Coko and get compensated for copyright infringement. See the http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/business/2679811.stm
Why did Lego managed to win in 2003 and lost in 2013? Back in 2003, China just joined WTO (World Trade Organization) and need to be seen as law abiding world citizen. Fast forward in 10 years, China had risen to be the second largest economy in the world. China would like to support local industry to grow and became less friendly to foreign companies. Also China legal system is civil law, in which the judges aren’t oblige to follow the precedents, so though both Coko and Xiaobailong cases were similar, the outcomes were different.
You can read further on application of IP laws in China here: