What will you be looking at in the session at the Annual Conference in which you are taking part?
We’ve changed the title of the session compared to the printed programme, so it is now "Taking Brands Digital". It is about enriching our brand with digital experiences.
I will say something about going from being a traditional toy company with only physical products into a company that also is a player the digital world. We are a toy company and we are good at moulding bricks, but not necessarily experts at doing digital experiences, so I will say something about our licensing business and how we work with third parties to get our brand incorporated into the digital world.
This includes: How do we transfer the physical experience into the digital world? How do we ensure that it’s as far as possible the same experience that people get when they play with the physical bricks and digitally?
There are two sides: there is protecting the brand and the trade mark, for example making sure the bricks and minifigures in a video game look like the ones in the physical world. On the other hand we can’t do too much in the virtual world, so children think that minifigures in the physical world can bend their arms completely for example. There is a balance to strike.
Are you very closely involved in that work in the legal department?
Yes we are. We have worked with most of our partners for a long time so they know what they can and can’t do. We have huge manuals on how to use our different properties. If we want to do something new, the legal department has a say in whether we can do that without harming the trade mark.
Are there different challenges online compared to traditional branding?
It’s a new world, and I’m not sure we’ve seen all the possibilities yet. But it is challenging to avoid unfortunate experiences. We spend a lot of time on our own site doing moderation so that pictures and comments that are uploaded are moderated before they go on LEGO.com. We have to make certain that parents can trust our site.
Because we moderate everything beforehand, it takes a longer time to post something on LEGO.com than it might do on some other sites. That also affects the challenges we have with social media. We have our own Facebook page, which is directed to people over 13. We also have our own YouTube channel so people know there is one place to go and children avoid some of the more unfortunate things out there: they know they should go to the LEGO channel to see the LEGO mini-movies they want to see.
You can do anything with LEGO bricks, and you can see all sorts of stop-motion movies on YouTube of things we don’t really like, as well as instructions for building models we don’t like. We don’t do anything about that as we think it’s better to keep it quiet and not draw attention to it. If we would do something, it could be used against us.
People are creative, and they can build anything with our bricks. But we hope that anything nasty will be forgotten amid the huge amount of things out there.
What can you tell us about The LEGO Movie?
The movie is all about creativity so it fits with our brand in general. People have criticised it as a 90-minute commercial for us, which it might be seen as, but it’s also entertainment. That’s true in general of our licensing products – there is a spill-over both ways. Either you have the bricks and become interested in other products, or you see the movie or play the game and become interested in the physical products.
Two or three years ago we released LEGO Friends. We hadn’t really had any successful products for girls before, but we had some licensing products for girls and the girls who knew the licensing products became interested in the physical products and the little LEGO Friends figures and the other way around. It shows there are two ways to get to consumers.
How long have you been at the LEGO Group?
I’ve been there about seven years. I’m an IP specialist so mainly do IP work. We have quite a large IP team so we all do a bit of everything within the IP world.
Our first task is to look at concepts to evaluate if we can protect them and to make sure that we don’t infringe third party rights and we also look closely at the marketing, to check we don’t confuse the consumers. We spend a lot of time looking at counterfeit products and copycats. They are very fast in copying things in China!
What IP rights do you have?
We’re not a lot into patents, but we do have around 40 patent families. Going into digital, we have to be more active in patents and it’s not an area we know much about. I’m sure we’ll file more patents in the future. The competition landscape has changed and our products have evolved. We have to make sure we protect what we can and don’t infringe anyone else.
In designs, we see the copycats know exactly which designs we have registered and which not. We do spend quite a lot of money on designs, but they are mostly defensive registrations.
We have a lot of trade marks, about 11,000 – the LEGO logo is protected all round the world where it’s possible. The same is true for DUPLO. We protect them in class 28 and other classes where we can.
Most of our marks are word marks and logos but we also have 3D marks for the minifigure, and for the standard brick for different kinds of merchandise though not in class 28. That is for the eight-knob brick and the four-knob brick. We had a sound mark for the LEGO Universe game melody. In the US, we have a colour mark for the yellow colour of the minifigure faces and hands.
What is your background?
I was in private practice, then worked at the European Court of Justice as a lawyer-linguist, and then at a patent agency before coming to work at the LEGO Group.
Finally, what do you recommend doing in Copenhagen?
People should take a harbour tour to see Copenhagen from the seaside. You can see a lot of the city that way. It’s also a great city for walking around so it doesn’t take long to see the sights. And go out for dinner; there are lots of very nice restaurants with the new Nordic-style food.
See the full programme, with details of all sessions and social events at the Annual Conference, on the MARQUES website.