“That Was My Idea!”. LEGO® Ideas and Intellectual Property

Michael Gettings

On August 1, 2011, a long-time LEGO® fan from Japan posted a model of the Back to the Future DeLorean Time Machine to the website Cuusoo. At the time, Cuusoo and the LEGO Group were partnering to solicit ideas for new models from the public. After the DeLorean gained 10,000 supporters, the LEGO Group reviewed the model to consider it for commercial production. The project gained approval and on August 1, 2013, LEGO set #21103, the DeLorean Time Machine, was released to the public.

Set #21103 sold quickly, though controversy spread among LEGO fans once pictures of the final set were available. The controversy mostly revolved around the changes made to the original Cuusoo design. The original model had a single-piece smooth sloping hood, squared-off windshield struts, white rear fender accents, and more. The final LEGO-released set featured a blockier, stepped hood, angled windshield struts, and no white fender accents, among other modifications. The LEGO-produced set was also smaller overall (though it consisted of roughly the same number of pieces). Some LEGO fans decided to buy the new set but shared plans to modify it to look more like the original Cuusoo design, which they preferred. With all the changes we might ask the question: is LEGO set #21103 the product of the original Cuusoo designers, or is it a different model? And if it’s a different model, can we credit the original Cuusoo designers, Masashi Togami and Sakuretsu (part of Team Back to the Future, or Team BTTF), with creating it? The second question relates to

LEGO® and Philosophy: Constructing Reality Brick By Brick, First Edition. Edited by Roy T. Cook and Sondra Bacharach.

© 2017 John Wiley & Sons Ltd. Published 2017 by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

intellectual property, but it depends on the first question, which is metaphysical. If it’s the same model, that explains why the original designers get credit.

 
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