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Toys

LEGO Responds to Business 2.0 115

Johannes K. writes "Here is an apparently official news message sent out by LEGO as a response to the recent article on mindstorms in Business 2.0. In it, LEGO states that they think it is great that people hack mindstorms and write their own software for it; in fact, they are convinced it will increase the popularity of the product. (Now there's an attitude you don't see nearly often enough.) However, they do have to protect their trademarks, and LegOS is apparently one of the victims of that. Understandable, I suppose."
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LEGO Responds to Business 2.0

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  • Makes some sense (Score:2, Interesting)

    by AntiFreeze ( 31247 )
    That release is interesting. What I'm wonderring is whether their lawyers plan on following that policy. As they say, actions speak louder than words.
    • I completely missed part of the release which stated that they never have, and plan to never sue anyone over issues like this.
    • Fifth paragraph after Clarifications...

      Again, not a problem with the programs themselves, or with hacking LEGO MINDSTORMS software and hardware in general. To be absolutely clear: we have never sued, are not suing, and do not contemplate suing anyone for taking apart LEGO MINDSTORMS and writing their own code to extend the product, or for distributing that code for free.

      (I am really getting sick of the 20 second rule here by the way)

  • by zoward ( 188110 ) <email.me.at.zoward.at.gmail.com> on Wednesday September 12, 2001 @06:31AM (#2285300) Homepage
    Lego the company has held out the olive branch in a way that other comapnies should emulate. Renaming LegOS is not a huge request to show some goodwill back from the open source community.
  • by gandalf_grey ( 93942 ) on Wednesday September 12, 2001 @06:31AM (#2285301) Homepage
    I think that the open source community should make a concerted effort to support the attitude. Specifically that the modification, use of open standards, and reuse of materials is not a crime, but a bennifit to many companies. "Coding is not a crime".
    • Yes, exactly. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Kasreyn ( 233624 ) on Wednesday September 12, 2001 @07:30AM (#2285449) Homepage
      Tweaking Lego's tail might be fun, but there is such a thing as carrying a joke too far. Lego is being more wise and openminded that the vast majority of companies would in its shoes. We definitely need to LUNGE on this opportunity to SET a PRECEDENT, so we can hold it up to other countries in the same situation and say, "Look, Lego decided to be cool and not sue, and look how much the hackers benefitted them! You should do the same and not sue".

      Precedent is good!

      -Kasreyn
  • European mindset ? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MosesJones ( 55544 ) on Wednesday September 12, 2001 @06:34AM (#2285305) Homepage
    This isn't totally unexpected. There has been quite a bit of evidence with DeCSS et al than Europe, and in paticular Scandinavia takes a much lighter view on these acts than their US counterparts. In the US the attitude is "its MY toy you can't play" where as the European attitude is more "you've bought it, its your own fault if you bugger it up".

    Somewhat ironically in a dicussion on toys the US companies are themselves acting like spoilt toddlers. LEGOs action appears a very mature response to what isn't really a problem. You bought the product, do what you want. If you bought LEGO bricks and , shock horror, made something other than the car on the box then they'd be fine with that.

    Hopefully some US companies will realise that once we buy their products we have the right to break them and use them as we want. If I want to use a CD as a coaster I will, or a frisbee or what ever.

    I'll get back in my cot now :)
    • by Anonymous Coward
      There's more to it than that. The U.S. has consumer protection laws that make the producer liable for a product's performance. That's why there are warranties.

      Can't have it both ways and U.S. laws give the protection to the consumer. This isn't something a company can chose to opt out of.

      I know a woman who bought a jug of wine at a grocery store in Italy, walked outside and the jug exploded because the wine had fermented. When she told the store manager about it, he asked if she wanted to buy another bottle. In the U.S. the store would give her another bottle. See the difference?
      • if she'd been Italian he would have given her another bottle.

        As a tourist its the same all over, I've had dodgy problems in stores in the US (esp smaller ones) and the basic attitude is "I know you can't do jack because your leaving in two days time".

        Same the world over. European laws do protect the consumer in a similar manner to the US laws. The warrenty on Software products however protects the company and basically says "you gave us $200, we will allow you to use the product for a little while but we still own it and can take it back, disable it or whatever, oh and any bugs in it then tough shit and fork out for the upgrade"
      • by ebbe11 ( 121118 )
        There's more to it than that. The U.S. has consumer protection laws that make the producer liable for a product's performance. That's why there are warranties.

        Can't have it both ways and U.S. laws give the protection to the consumer. This isn't something a company can chose to opt out of.

        So do most European countries. But there's a limit: our laws do not protect the consumer from himself. Around here we assume that people can think for themselves and if they can't, it's their own bloody fault.

        BTW, we also have fewer lawyers over here...

      • I know a woman who bought a jug of wine at a grocery store in Italy, walked outside and the jug exploded because the wine had fermented. When she told the store manager about it, he asked if she wanted to buy another bottle. In the U.S. the store would give her another bottle. See the difference?

        Sounds like a pretty shady store to begin with. Probably just hoping to take advantage of her. In the States, the store could be in danger of being sued for endangering her (glass is sharp!), or a dozen other things. Don't forget the lady who spilled hot coffee on herself and successfully sued McDonalds because of it. If the store would give her another bottle free of charge would probably have more to do with trying to protect themselves from far more costly lawsuits than trying to obey consumer protection laws.
    • by Nurgster ( 320198 ) on Wednesday September 12, 2001 @08:09AM (#2285601) Homepage
      Except the US population has an attitude of taking no responsibility for their actions. If the toy did break, chances are a lawsuit would follow.
  • by epsalon ( 518482 ) <slash@alon.wox.org> on Wednesday September 12, 2001 @06:39AM (#2285320) Homepage Journal
    I think that if Lego are so supportive of people hacking their software and extending it, they might consider opening their own source under the GPL or similar license. This will enable them to directly benefit from the works of the people hacking their products in order to develop better 'official' software kits for Mindstorms in the future. It's a win-win situation.
    About trademark protection, they have a point. It's one thing to hack Lego code, but a totally different thing to make it look as if it's official, and I don't buy that LegOS was not intended to sound like LEGO. Changing a name is a small price to pay for a very positive attiude towards open-source and hackers by a lagre corporation.
  • Another possible way (Score:3, Interesting)

    by biglig2 ( 89374 ) on Wednesday September 12, 2001 @06:50AM (#2285342) Homepage Journal
    They could perhaps even license (with low cost but tight restrictions) the name to the software?
    • by eXtro ( 258933 ) on Wednesday September 12, 2001 @07:08AM (#2285394) Homepage
      That would probably be a bit scary for LEGO. Once you license your name out then the reputation of that project affects your reputation and brand recognition. Around here the reputation of the software is apparently good, but what about outside of this small group of people? Right now its probably mostly unknown, but once its licensed it becomes more visible.


      Not everybody would feel the same way, especially if some well intentioned but misguided people decide that the path to salvation is through unchaining people from the official LEGO (though the unofficial would now be official too!) software.


      I wish I could find the link, but I found an utterly clueless rant the other day as I was looking for video4linux information. He was chastising the video4linux developers because they didn't support his hardware and that it only supported a few high priced boards and older technology. He had absolutely no concept that this was a) a volunteer effort, b) required reverse engineering in most cases since most companies don't release specifications.


      Anyway, I see the same thing happening here, only much worse: "I installed the LEGO software on my kids LEGO set and can't make it do anything. I want my damned money back."


      Sure, the response should be "Oh, use the software on the CD, its a nice graphical language" but from past experiences that response won't work.

    • by plover ( 150551 ) on Wednesday September 12, 2001 @09:00AM (#2285822) Homepage Journal
      I see where you're going, but the answer is still "probably not."


      If the LEGO(tm) name is on it, people who purchase it are going to expect it to be LEGO. Since installing it prevents it from running other "standard" LEGO programs written in their brick code from running, it would confuse people who are incapable of understanding it but who are able to recognize the LEGO name. Even if L*gOS is "non-destructive", won't hurt their brick, approved for use by children under 3, all that stuff, it still won't "act" like a normal RCX, so it won't "act" LEGO enough for them.


      If it were my decision, I wouldn't sell my name like that.


      John

  • by Mentifex ( 187202 ) on Wednesday September 12, 2001 @06:54AM (#2285351) Homepage Journal
    The LEGO Minstorms robot has already been hacked for Forth by Ralph Hempel [hempeldesigngroup.com]; logic dictates that the next step is to adapt the Artificial Mind from http://mind.sourceforge.net [sourceforge.net] for LEGO Mindstorms, since the JavaScript teaching AI is also in Forth at http://sourceforge.net/projects/mind/ [sourceforge.net].
  • by Diabolical ( 2110 ) on Wednesday September 12, 2001 @06:54AM (#2285352) Homepage
    The name LegOS was intended to sound and read just like LEGO. I read a lame excuse about the author saying his name would be translated into "Leg" and OS was meant to mean Operating System... However he also said to take it with a wink...

    I grew up with LEGO. I still think it's the coolest toy around.. so much possibilities with only your imagination as the border... i'm glad they took this stand however i don not think it has anything to do with being european (i am european btw). It is just a case of sound mind.

    For all i can tell the fact that hackers creating unthought ways of using Mindstorms has made the company sell more sets than even they anticipated.. (i read somewhere an est. 100.000 against the 15.000 they thought). It certainly would be a bad idea if they were going to bite the hand that feeds them..

    Besides.. the software used for mindstorms isn't their core bussiness.. it's the plastic that we play an build with...

  • by RupertJ ( 520598 ) on Wednesday September 12, 2001 @06:56AM (#2285355)
    This is fantastic news for those of us who just must get inside something and have a play. There are some toys that simply must be poked around with (Mindstorms, Sony AIBO, etc). As with previous posters, I'm very much of the opinion that when you buy something, it is yours to do with as you please. I commend Lego for their supportive and encouraging attitude!
  • Well.. (Score:5, Funny)

    by ksb ( 517539 ) <karlb@NOspaM.amber.org.uk> on Wednesday September 12, 2001 @06:56AM (#2285359)
    What else are they gonna do, they're only an inch high, yellow and have holes in their legs! Mind you they do have some cool space craft and a jazzy train set ;)
  • LEGO is STILL frickin' cool -- it's great to know that they are supportive of the hacking community and seem encouraged by that. This issue with trademarks makes completely seem particularly since none of their trademarked words are common english (And considering how long Lego have been on the market to prevent common dilution of the word, that's no surprise).

    • This is really cool. As a kid I played a lot with Lego, and fully intend any kids of mine to have access to a set (hey- if it's just for me ;-).

      As I got older I played with the Technic sets, but compared to some of the technological toys and gaming consoles around today I had heard that the Lego company wasn't doing to well- hopefully taking this kind of stance will prove to be really good for the company as well as the consumers as it could lead to a great Lego toy for older kids in a more modern age, it would also set a great precendent for other companies to see.
  • This is great that LEGO likes what its users have begun doing with the mindstorm kits. I personally thin it is really interesting to see what different things can be accomplished with them.

    Justin Kott
    Admin - www.NewsPAD.org [newspad.org]
    NewsPAD - The Daily News Source for Geeks!
    • My current project with my Mindstorms, is a cd-changer using suction cups. Since I have 750 cd-r's with 8,300 mp3 albums [mp3-to-go.com], this will save me a lot of time.

      My first version didn't use suction cups, and the cd-r's were set up on their sides. But I used up all my legos, and it only held 47 cd-r's. To make it work with 100's of cd-r's, I had to settle for suction cups, and to leave the cd-r's inside their spindles.

      Rader
      Out of hard drive space again! 470GB of mp3 [mp3-to-go.com]
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 12, 2001 @07:13AM (#2285407)
    ...and name it "Non-infringing Product"
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 12, 2001 @07:15AM (#2285415)
    I just hope the self proclaimed geek crowd will police itselves and respect LEGO. Hacking is great... theft is an entirely different matter that has no place with hackers.
  • by weslocke ( 240386 ) on Wednesday September 12, 2001 @07:15AM (#2285417)
    It's a great stand by LEGO to embrace the hacktivist community, and like it's been posted it's probably due, at least partly, to that factthat they blew away sales projections. Shouldn't others pick up on this business model? Not give away their products or IP items, but to allow/encourage their users to extend the original concepts in ways they hadn't thought of. Heck, look at Tivo. They have always been very encouraging of its hacking users, and think of the thousands of boxes they've sold due to that very fact alone. (I can talk since the hackability is the reason I have one on order right now.)

    Heck, if anything it's really cheap R/D for new features and bugfixes.
    • It's a great stand by LEGO to embrace the hacktivist community, and like it's been posted it's probably due, at least partly, to that factthat they blew away sales projections. Shouldn't others pick up on this business model? Not give away their products or IP items, but to allow/encourage their users to extend the original concepts in ways they hadn't thought of.

      It's actually not that new of an idea. Even befor e users created mods for games, we had the automotive industry and drag racers / customizers / low riders / road racers/etc - and Detroit not only supported them, but used their ideas to improve their products.

      I build model rockets, and built many copies of kits and designs put out by Estes / CMR / Centuri. These companies even sold the oddball parts and decals I needed to make exact copies of their kits - beacuse they knew their money was in hardware and generating interest in the product/hobby.

      Just as every generation feels they were the first ones to discover sex, they feel they also have found some new and novel business plan.
      • by Anonymous Coward
        Ham radio gear companies have been marketing radio on the basis they could be modified too.

        Almost all the companies making radio gear know that people will try to modify them. Many, (Radio-Shack, Alinco, Yaesu) even sell the special parts to do it !

        Of course, once you open your radio, you're responsible for what you do. You mess up, you fix it. No warranties anymore !!!

        But this system just works great.

        When the radios are not designed to be modified, the company knows they will have a smaller market share and take their business decisions accordingly.
  • Support LEGO ! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by darkalfie ( 71911 ) on Wednesday September 12, 2001 @07:27AM (#2285444) Homepage
    I've had lego since i ward born, and it's the only toy i've never thrown away. (I've since passed it to my younger cousins,etc.. to continue the tradition)

    Lego is more then a toy to many, it's the beginnings of a constructive childhood and planning.

    A reply like this from Lego shows not only support, but their attitude towards their toys - That lego's not about making money, it's all about building, hacking and all that bricks !

    I'm going out there to buy a mindstorm set ! (And telling my frens about it)
  • thanks LEGO! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by dpletche ( 207193 ) on Wednesday September 12, 2001 @07:34AM (#2285463)
    This goes to show that Lego is not only a cool toy, but a cool company too! I certainly hope that the authors of these great add-ons (in particular, LegOS) will accept this graciously-extended olive branch and find a compromise that suits everyone. Today I could really live with a world that's more friendly and less confrontational.

    It's a pity that these issues so readily escalate to acrimonious exchanges and legal threats -- witness the current legal woes facing amdzone.com. Again, my commendation to Lego for taking the high road. May they enjoy continued healthy sales and goodwill with their enthusiast community.
  • by altan ( 519377 )
    I think that the general idea of Legos are open-source and GNU, they let you create and not limit you to the space station design on the front. They should move this over to the Mindstorm's processors as well and give out source for free with the product.
  • Apple vs. Lego (Score:2, Insightful)

    by cholokoy ( 265199 )
    Had Apple done the same thing with their Macs, they would probably be the most dominant personal computer maker by now.

    Here is a win-win situation that other companies can emulate.
    • I do not understand what you mean.

      What makes you think that Apple does not think it is great that people hack Macs and write their own software for them? I would think it is safe to assume they think it will increase the popularity of the product. While it is obvious that Apple wants software on their platform, even on the OS level, Apple did sponsor the MkLinux project, and while Apple did not work with the NetBSD team on the port per se, there were folks from Apple who did contribute. Currently the innards of OS X are open, and they would be happy if folks would hack away at Darwin.
  • by Ami Ganguli ( 921 ) on Wednesday September 12, 2001 @07:51AM (#2285523) Homepage

    I must say I'm impressed. After all the stupidity being perpetrated by mega-corporations lately, it's great to see a company do something thoughtful and intelligent. The letter was straightforward and reasonable - not threats, no legalese, just a well thought out explanation of their position. I had almost forgotten that corporations are capable of common sense - it feels good to be reminded.

    You know, I haven't played with Legos in twenty years, but those Mindstorms do look pretty cool. Maybe I'll go out and buy a box.

  • Very reasonable (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 12, 2001 @08:10AM (#2285603)
    Lego is the first reasonable corporate citizen on copyright and trademark laws that I've seen. Rather than blasting people with lawyers and nasty legal letters, they sent friendly, cooperative letters explaining the problem and working with the web sites to resolve it. Then, instead of going for an intellectual property landgrab, they set up a set of reasonable policies for fair use.


    If I were Lego, I'd do two things slightly differently:

    Lobby (and make clear that I'm doing so) for fair international IP law (rather than stronger international IP law), hopefully resambling that which the US had about ten years ago.

    Allow some fair use of the red Lego logo (though the latter is really their call, and its certainly morally right if they wish not to do that).

    Thanks, Lego! You've always had a strong sense of ethics in the types of toys you've made, and its good to see you're still carrying it on in how you interact with adults. I appreciate how your toys have always been educational and reasonably non-violent. I enjoyed your toys as a little kid, and now I can play with them again at MIT as a bigger kid, and probably my kids (when I have them) will have a huge collections of Legos as well.

  • I've also heard that one of the toy companies will soon be releasing a series of large bug-like toys that are robotic and specifically designed to be accessable and "hackable" by their owners.
  • by pubjames ( 468013 ) on Wednesday September 12, 2001 @08:47AM (#2285758)
    I said in my posting the other day "I would be really suprised if Lego (Denmark) agree with this [Business 2.0 article]". And this press release proves that they don't.

    I'm afraid that you American's need to wake up to the fact that you have a very abusive corporate mentality, which is not in the interests of anyone but the company. Many of you seem to think that Europeans are a bunch of 'socialist losers' (going by the postings on Slashdot), because we generally approve of goverment intervention to prevent abusive business practices in the free market, and most of our companies are not as aggressive as yours, as this Lego case demonstrates. However, we see it not as being losers, but as being more civilized.

    • by Registered Coward v2 ( 447531 ) on Wednesday September 12, 2001 @10:07AM (#2286064)
      'm afraid that you American's need to wake up to the fact that you have a very abusive corporate mentality, which is not in the interests of
      anyone but the company. Many of you seem to think that Europeans are a bunch of 'socialist losers' (going by the postings on Slashdot),because we generally approve of goverment intervention to prevent abusive business practices in the free market, and most of our companies are not as aggressive as yours, as this Lego case demonstrates. However, we see it not as being losers, but as being more civilized.


      The problem I have with the European viewpoint is that government intervention generally acts not in the interests of consumers but of business. For example, when I lived in Switzerland, store hours were set by law, which protects the small mom-and pops from being driven out of business by big stores that can offer more convient shopping hours.

      Companies also set the "right price" which could not be discounted - which protected mom and pops, as well as big companies because they didn't have to worry about competing on price. They simply divided up the market based on location. The manufactures didn't have to worry about big companies demanding price breaks, since the manufaturers set prices at suitably high margins.

      Companies are not aggressive because governments have established a set of legal and regulatory protections that benefits all the incumbent companies, so there is no reason to upset the applecart. Look at the reaction from companies when somebody tries - such as poor Sabena, where an upstart low fare competitor had the nerve to advertise they were cheaper than Sabena. They sure showed they had the interests of more than Sabena at heart when they sued to get the competitor to stop comparing fares.

      In the end, the average consumer in Europe is worse off than those in the US. (Where most of us have enough common sense to accept responsibility for our own actions.)
      • ... where an upstart low fare competitor had the nerve to advertise they were cheaper than Sabena.

        I don't know anything about said case but I am always weary of these "price comparisons" or "Product Comparisons", they are invaribaly skewed by the fact that they are an advertisement.

      • Companies also set the "right price" which could not be discounted - which protected mom and pops, as well as big companies because they didn't have to worry about competing on price.
        This doesn't just benefit the mom and pops, it benefits consumers -- albeit indirectly. You won't run into a situation where Some Big Box Store (Wal Mart?) comes into town, cuts prices below whatever anyone else in town is charging until all others in town are out of business, then jacks the prices above the point they were to begin with.
        • ME:
          Companies also set the "right price" which could not be discounted - which protected mom and pops, as well as big companies because they didn't have to worry about competing on price.

          You:
          This doesn't just benefit the mom and pops, it benefits consumers -- albeit indirectly.


          I'm sorry , but I don't agree with the idea than a consumer benefits by paying higher prices. If you truely believe that, then you might as well do away with anti-trust laws and let companies setup cartels.

          You won't run into a situation where Some Big Box Store(Wal Mart?) comes into town, cuts prices below whatever anyone else in town is charging until all others in town are out of business, then jacks the prices above the point they were to begin with.

          Except it doesn't work that way, primarily becasue even if you do run everyone out of business, as soon as you jack up prices, new competitors will open stores. As a result, you have to keep prices so low to keep competitors out, until you either go bankrupt or get tired of tiny returns on your investment. In fact, Wal-Mart has a policy of pricing at the prevailing prices in an area - they avoid starting price wars with major competitors. While there may be some areas where there are no K-Marts/Targets/Ames/Meijer/Albertsions et.al and just a lone Wal-Mart, I bet most have major competitors within their territory. They may drive some local business out, but overall they lower prices in an area - which benefits consumers.

          In addition, companies can compete on more than price - service is one area where they have an advantage. Of course, this means the same people that complain about Wal-mart driving local stores out of business need to be willing to vote with their pocket book and pay more for goods. For example, I buy my N64/GBA stuff at a small local retailer, even if he is more expensive (which he generally isn't). Why? Because I know he will get me the hot games (such as a PS2 at list price when *nobody* else had them, if I wanted) and help me avoid bad ones. If he gets a used game in he knows I want, he saves it for me. Try that at Wal-Mart.
    • In Europe laws are being created by the governing bodies, not by precedents in court. So decisions by (potentially) uninformed judges does not have the same importance as in the US. Thus lawyers does not rule the different countries, democratically elected governments do. If you ask me (not that anybody did, I'm just giving my two cents anyway) the US courts have way to much power .... that way simply doesn't work in Europe.
  • by RalphTWaP ( 447267 ) on Wednesday September 12, 2001 @09:04AM (#2285842)


    I'd like to write a witty response to the article here. In fact, I'd very much ejoy talking about those little plastic bits that stick to each other with anyone who cares to listen... (picks a little plastic bit that just got flicked at him out of his coffee).

    At the same time, since the corporation that makes them was very polite, I'd really like to do so without once using one of thier trademarks.

    Unfortunately, now I'm at an impass.

    the following text contains trademarks of the LEGO corporation. In all cases, it is my intent that the trademarks are used in good faith

    My question to pose is thus. If one were to write software to drive the LEGO Mindstorm system, one would have to *eventually* write bits having to do with very definite parts of the technology. Perhaps there's a component "dingle_driver.o" or somesuch. Perhaps it's as simple as including readable code-documentation about the bit in question.

    Now how could you do it if you couldn't use the name of the whatsit you were writing software about? Would the code be of higher quality? Would it be maintainable? Perhaps most importantly around here... Would it be hackable?

    Possibly, most likely not.

    Certainly it's possible to brand your product using something not confuseable with a trademark of a given corporation, at least at a high level, but I have to believe that at some point people name things because of what they are or what they do. Certainly it's pretty easy to determine that LegOS is either an OS for LEGOS or it's some kind of operating system for pedal-limbs.

    Eventually I arrive at the thought that perhaps corporations who wish to encourage private development and tinkering ought to establish a set of licenseable trademarks. Certainly they could be spun to have recognition with the parent brand without significantly diluting the brand.

    • I'm not sure I understand what you're getting at.

      Are you saying that LEGO is objecting to third parties using their trademarks as names of elements w/in the third-party source code?

      It seems to me that LEGO is merely requesting that the complete source code and/or binary package not be advertised or distrubuted under an infringing name. That is, the collective name for the entire package should not infringe.

      Seriously, who would care about a foo_lego() buried deep in your source? Anyway, RTFA. LEGO makes no mention of actual LEGO or Mindstorm components - words like "brick", "wheel", "motor", &c. are conspicuously absent from their list of trademarks. Feel free to write code that uses these canonical names. No one will complain.
  • irony (Score:3, Funny)

    by dpletche ( 207193 ) on Wednesday September 12, 2001 @09:10AM (#2285872)
    I wonder whether the Justice Department will punish Lego for failing to uphold the spirit of the DMCA.
  • by kel-tor ( 146691 ) on Wednesday September 12, 2001 @09:52AM (#2285997)
    those are the nicests worded press releases I think I've ever read. Very non-confrontational. I wish more companies had the good sense to try being nice before pummelling their most fanatic customers:--)
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Letgomyegg OS (resist and violate more trademarks)

    PullingMyLeg OS (fall back after above)

    YourLOS (A way to send home a final message...)

    YAWN OS (Yet Another Wannabe Non-infringing Lego OS)

    AgnOS (A Gnu-like OS, with adherants being AgnOStics?)

    SpiroLegGnu OS (Ok, pretty oblique, but perhaps right wing fringe appeal will appease lawyers)

    L'EgonomicsOS (respect the capitalist force, L'Uke)

    LAG OS (well, maybe not).

    BreakALeg OS (Acting like it should...but just a hint of a certain plastic brick in it)

    O'GEL OS (With back handed Scottish flair)

    Charles L'Gaul OS (use a bad French accent).

    LegoBagleOS (acknowledge influence of lawyers)

    L'Egolitariate OS (proletariat resists lawyers)

    OSS LiBRE Operating System Software for Little Brick Robots And Electronics

  • by Anonymous Coward
    LEGO has a clue, we should play nice with them!

    What does the developer of LegOS have to say about renaming? Is he okay with it, or is he being a jerk?

  • MIT Media Lab (Score:3, Interesting)

    by gulopine ( 446573 ) on Wednesday September 12, 2001 @12:11PM (#2286791)
    Doesn't surprise me in the slighest, frankly. If nothing else, it's been a long-standing precident with Lego that other companies are allowed to use the same dimensions for building blocks, which allows Lego blocks to be used along-side other brands in the same creation. This is the same mentality that's being applied in this instance, allowing others to create software for use with their blocks.

    As for the title of my post, I also imagine a large portion of their decision was that the higher-ups in the company didn't know what to make of LegOS, so they asked the MIT Media Lab (who created Lego Mindstorms) what to do. I can just hear their response too, "Heck, we don't care. We would've released the source if you'd let us. What you do about the trademark's up to you, but we think the software's great!" All the while playing with one of their little "crickets" in the Lego group in the basement of the Media Lab.

    On a side note, it was very interesting taking a tour of the Media Lab while top-ranking executives from several potential Mindstorms investors were huddled around a large table playing with Lego blocks and trying to write programs for them. :) The man I spoke with said they had an easier time teaching kindegartners than those execs. Go figure, eh?

    -Gulopine
    • If nothing else, it's been a long-standing precident with Lego that other companies are allowed to use the same dimensions for building blocks, which allows Lego blocks to be used along-side other brands in the same creation.

      I don't think this is true, although I don't know for sure. Lego are very careful with registering design patents, making sure that other cannot sell similar toys. I remember seeing a news item as a boy that the most fundamental Lego patent had expired, so other companies could start selling compatible building blocks. "Great, cheap lego!" was my thought. However, that cheap Lego also turned out to be crappy and ugly, so I didn't go for it.

  • Lego is being amazingly clueful about this. I'm happy that they're not going to be pissy about the hacker community playing with their toys, and I hope that they check in on this thread and see how much support and goodwill their position is garnering.
  • http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=21483&cid=2271 227
    • Darned inserted spaces!
    • http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=21483&cid=2271 227

      Remove any spaces added to the URL by Slashdot.

      Yep, they certainly do have a point. While I think that hacking their hardware/software is great (and I bet LEGO thinks so too), there's no point in poking their lawyers with a stick. IP and trademark are protect it or lose it type stuff.

      There are any number of ex-trademarks that were lost because the company didn't defend the trademark (or botched it): Aspirin, linolium, yo-yo, thermos, cellophane, milk of magnesia, lanolin, celluloid, dry ice, escalator, shredded wheat and zipper. (Source: "Made in America", Bill Bryson) While these names are now public domain, some company once created and owned them. Those companies lost big when their trademark became generic.

      I'm sure that the LEGO people would rather shoot their own feet off than have to sue someone, but you have to defend a trademark or lose it! They can't afford to lose the LEGO trademark, otherwise anyone can call their product LEGO.

      I hope Noga will understand (NogaOS?), and LEGO could give him a few bulk cases of LEGO. And then everyone could go have a cream soda with ice cream float.

      LEGO are White Hat Good Guys, Noga is White Hat Good Guy. This problem is stupid, and is just attracting the suits and lawyers.

      Now if only LEGO would make steel blocks so that I could build the perfect BattleBot!
  • Two words:

    Yay Lego!!!

    When the original B2.0 article was mentioned the other day, I called it stupid sensationalist drivel. Now Lego has confirmed this--the don't intend to sue, they are happy to see Mindstorms hacked, and they're willing to go to impressive lengths to settle trademark infringement.

    In other words, Business 2.0 is full of shit, and can be safely ignored.
  • I agree with the consensus: changing the Legos name is a trivial price to pay for maintaining the company's intelligent and friendly attitude to genuine innovation. Pity that any replacement name is unlikely to be as appropriate, succinct and descriptive, but LogOS achieves that precisely because it includes the trademark. So, has anyone got some ideas for neat new names? Best I've come up with so far are

    Mindstorms(r) Dynamic Operating System - unfortunately the acronym clashes with a trademark held by a company with a more selective interpretation of the term innovation.

    Someone made a joke about Gnu/LegOS, but along the same lines, and more seriously:

    GLOSS - Gnu Lego(r)/Mindstorms(r) Open Source System? But dragging the O-word and its associated political baggage into what has so far been a friendly relationship between the brick-hackers and the brick-vendor is probably not a Good Idea. So,

    GLASS - Generic lego(r)/Mindstorms(r) Alternative Software System? Hint of transparent access to the inards of the brick, and that it's not official.

    I'm sure others can do better.

  • It will be interesting for Slashdot to have a poll regarding the suggestion of renaming of LegOS.

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