Chinese court upholds sentences for LEGO counterfeiters

A Chinese court has upheld prison sentences – and a huge fine – for the people behind LEGO clone brand Lepin.

The Third Intermediate People’s Court of Shanghai originally sentenced the ‘chief culprit’, known only as Li, and eight other defendants to jail time in September 2020. The Higher People’s Court in Shanghai has now upheld those verdicts following an appeals process, reports the San Francisco Chronicle.

Li and his associates set up their factory in 2015, and spent years copying LEGO bricks, sets, boxes and artwork under the brand name Lepin. Their sentences range from three to four and a half years in prison, with the exception of Li, who’s been sentenced to six years – and handed a fine of 90 million yuan (approximately £10.2 million).

As the LEGO Group pushes further into the Chinese market, it’s pursued clone brands with force. Chinese police raided Lepin’s factories in 2019, shortly after the company’s trademark was invalidated in the UK – and Chinese courts ordered the brand to stop producing knock-off LEGO sets.

That action all came to a head in September last year, leading to the convictions now upheld by the appeals court. However, there are still many more clone brands in circulation in China, with several popping up on websites like the global retail platform Alibaba.

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Chris Wharfe

I like to think of myself as a journalist first, LEGO fan second, but we all know that’s not really the case. Journalism does run through my veins, though, like some kind of weird literary blood – the sort that will no doubt one day lead to a stress-induced heart malfunction. It’s like smoking, only worse. Thankfully, I get to write about LEGO until then. You can follow me on Twitter at @brfa_chris.

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