Case | HBS Case Collection | February 2013 (Revised March 2015)

The LEGO Group: Publish or Protect?

by Willy C. Shih and Sen Chai


Senior managers at the LEGO Group are faced with a quandary: Should they patent inventions coming out of their manufacturing process development work, should they keep them as trade secrets, or should they publish them so that they would go into the public domain and nobody else could patent them? They wish to preserve their freedom to practice, but they are very concerned about competitors' ability to benefit from LEGO Group's R&D investments or alternately interfere with its freedom to operate. The case frames important intellectual property issues around appropriability and strategy.

Keywords: Plastics; injection molding; toys; LEGO; LEGO Group; Tools; Additive Manufacturing; 3D Manufacturing; Toolmaking; intellectual property; Patenting; patents; Spillovers; Knowledge Spillovers; Change; Trends; Engineering; Machinery and Machining; Intellectual Property; Patents; Operations; Production; Strategy; Corporate Strategy; Technology Adoption; Technology Platform; Consumer Products Industry; Manufacturing Industry; Technology Industry; Europe; Denmark;


Shih, Willy C., and Sen Chai. "The LEGO Group: Publish or Protect?" Harvard Business School Case 613-079, February 2013. (Revised March 2015.)