Lego Copyright Infringement Case Sentenced in Shanghai

On December 29, the "Lepin" counterfeited "Lego" Case involving a total amount of 330 million yuan was finalized at the Shanghai Higher People's Court. The Court rejected the appeal of Li and others and upheld the original sentence. According to the original sentence, Li was sentenced to six years imprisonment for copyright infringement and a fine of ninety million yuan; the remaining eight defendants were sentenced to fixed-term imprisonment ranging from four years and six months to three years, and were fined accordingly.


The case was heard by a Collegial Panel composed of Liu Xiaoyun, President of Shanghai Higher People's Court, Liu Junhua, President of the Intellectual Property Court, and Luo Kaiju, Vice President of Criminal Court, with Liu Xiaoyun as the presiding judge. The Shanghai People’s Procuratorate appointed Chief Procurator Zhang Bencai, Director Hu Chunjian of the Fourth Procuratorate, and Prosecutor Lu Chuan to appeared in the Court to perform the duties.


In the trial of second instance, both the prosecution and defense focused on and debated issues including “whether the Lego company’s infringed assembled toys are artworks”, “whether the amount of illegal business operations of Li and others’ copyright infringement is correct”, “whether the case is a unit crime”, and whether the original judgment measurement of penalty is appropriate”, etc.


After the trial, Shanghai Higher People's Court held that, according to the relevant laws and regulations of the Copyright Law, “artworks refer to paintings, calligraphy, sculptures, etc., which are aesthetically significant flat or three-dimensional plastic artworks composed of lines, colors or other methods.” In this case, there was a total of 663 assembled three-dimensional models, and the expressions carried by them were independently designed by Lego. They own originality and unique aesthetic significance. Therefore, the assembled three-dimensional toys belong to the category of artworks, and are protected by China's Copyright Law.


As for the issue of sentencing, Shanghai High Court believes that according to the Criminal Law and relevant judicial interpretations, the actions of Li and others constituted copyright infringements, and are “with other particularly serious circumstances”, and should be sentenced to a term of not less than three years and not more than seven years imprisonmentand fines. The amount of the fine is generally not less than one time and not more than five times of the illegal income, or determined at more than 50% but not more than one time of the illegal business amount. Considering that this case not only caused significant losses to the right holder’s goodwill and economic benefits, but also disrupted the order of the market economy, with serious social harm, and should be severely punished in accordance with the law. The Court of first instance made the original judgment based on the fact that some defendants had an accomplice, surrendered, made meritorious service, and confessed, and it was not improper.


On December 29, Shanghai Higher People's Court made a final judgment, dismissed the appeals of six people including Li and affirmed the original judgment.