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First off, I assume that it's legal to sell used LEGO bricks and it's also legal to sell self-made LEGO instructions and parts-lists.

As far as I know, there are people selling LEGO sets of their MOCs online. But I also witnessed a discussion, where the general consensus was that this would be illegal.

So let's say I build a MOC and want to sell it. Would the following be okay?

  1. Selling the exact MOC I've built
  2. Selling the parts one would need for the MOC (+ instructions and part-list)
  3. Packing the parts and instructions into a self-designed box and selling them
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4 Answers 4

up vote 12 down vote accepted

Selling used LEGO is definitely legal, at least in most legal systems. One of the most basic property rights involves the right to transfer ownership as long as both parties agree on the terms. Even selling items under copyright (instructions, box art, games, etc) is legal under the first-sale doctrine.

I don't see any reason that any of the 3 things that you listed would be illegal. Here's a similar example which hopefully makes things more clear.

Let's say that someone builds computers and sells them. No one builds a computer from scratch, so the builder has to buy lots of components (CPU, GPU, RAM, hard drive, etc). Although each one of these components is likely covered by hundreds of patents, that doesn't actually matter because the builder bought the right to resell the parts. As someone selling MOCs, you have to buy LEGO bricks to resell. This is a valid use of your property rights.

To address your issues specifically:

  1. Selling a MOC you build - This is legal because you are simply selling your own physical property (the used bricks) and your intellectual property (your MOC)
  2. Selling the parts one would need for the MOC (+ instructions and part-list) - Again, you have the right to sell the parts. The instructions and part list are your intellectual property, but there may be issues with trademark (e.g. you can't brand it as a TLG authorized set)
  3. Packing the parts and instructions into a self-designed box and selling them - This is essentially the same as 2 except with additional intellectual property of your own (box art, etc). Again, it needs to be clear that this isn't an official LEGO set.

In regards to the branding and trademark issues, TLG has a document available which provides a useful set of guidelines to use when referring to LEGO.

To be clear, I'm not a lawyer, and if you're planning to start a business selling packaged LEGO MOCs, you might want to consult a real lawyer first.

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Yes, I think item 3 would be the most concerning - provided you're not passing off the boxed set as anything remotely LEGO (similarly MegaBloks/KRE-O) endorsed/affiliated - there are a number of successful "Unofficial LEGO" books on the market - however it might also depend on the theme of the sets. –  Zhaph - Ben Duguid Mar 25 '13 at 12:48
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The only thing that I would add to this otherwise excellent answer is a link to TLG's official statement on copyright, trademark, and fair use aboutus.lego.com/en-us/legal-notice/fair-play As long as someone does not run afoul of those terms you're pretty much in the clear. Do note that most of those terms do refer to "non-commercial" use though so be careful how you apply them. –  Nathan Stohlmann Mar 26 '13 at 13:16
    
Thanks for pointing that out. I've updated my answer. –  jncraton Mar 26 '13 at 14:11

In any case, it does happen regularly at key LEGO events, and in plain sight, as well as on the Internet.

Considering LEGO employees (and big bosses) attend these events on a regular basis, if they had a problem with this, they would have said so by now. Obviously, Kjeld Kirk Kristiansen doesn't mind.

Of course, it needs to be very clear what you're actually selling and you certainly don't want to pass it off as if LEGO designed the set, but for the rest there shouldn't be any problem. You can even sell instructions only for a small fee if you so desire.

Note that I'm not saying it is legal, I don't know about that (though I would tend to agree with jncraton on this); rather, I'm saying that LEGO has no problem with it at all as long as you play it fair. Keep in mind there are some people who even create and sell their own parts, and LEGO doesn't go after them either.

One last thing to consider regarding legality however is that you also need to check if what you're building has a copyright on it. Selling a MOC of a Smurf statue, for example, might very well be OK for LEGO, but most certainly not for the Smurf copyright owners.

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Given operations like http://www.brickmania.com/ the answer is decidedly yes... as long as you follow certain rules.

Among those rules are NEVER use the actual LEGO logo, and refer to the elements as LEGO® elements.

A somewhat fuzzier rule is that aside from mentioning that genuine LEGO® elements are contained in the product, your product should not be easily confused with an official LEGO® set.

While it does not specifically mention resale, http://aboutus.lego.com/en-us/legal-notice/fair-play/ has some useful information, plus a link to a PDF Fair Play brochure.

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Are you sure it is not legal to say "it's made of Lego(r) bricks"? If I make a table, I can (I think) say it's made of wood, or that building is made of SuperConcrete Ltd.'s concrete and so on. –  Voitcus Apr 23 '13 at 11:44
    
Sure it's legal.. I said ASIDE from that. –  gev Apr 24 '13 at 7:41

I believe generally selling your MOCs would be fine, as other answers have pointed out.

It would be interesting to see what problems you'd come across if you tried to sell other people's MOCs though, which I guess would fall under copyright infringement.

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