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Cease and Desist Coming In 3, 2, 1...

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Cease and Desist Coming In 3, 2, 1...

Postby Staff » Wed Sep 06, 2017 1:09 pm





LEGO was PDQ about telling Hasbro they couldn't sell their Star Wars construction toys. No, it wasn't KRE-O; more like their Hero Mashers line. In fact, if I remember the story correctly, their entire launch line up was stopped at the Port of Long Beach and was told to go back to China. All because of licensing issues around what was marketed as a "construction toy". So I can't imagine LEGO being okay with this, assuming it's even officially licensed. And if it's not, Wisehawk may be stirring up a bigger bee's nest with Lucasfilm.
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Re: Cease and Desist Coming In 3, 2, 1...

Postby Spencer Solo » Wed Sep 06, 2017 3:56 pm

I saw this while I was browsing Amazon. Doesn't even look good, to be honest.
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Re: Cease and Desist Coming In 3, 2, 1...

Postby dWhisper » Wed Sep 06, 2017 7:15 pm

Well, given that rather... let's call it "charged" history between Lego and Hasbro over this licensing, I can totally see it. Hasbro opened that volley years ago when they shut down the Star Wars minifigures sets back in 2000, and those two have been going at it. They should have known better than trying to get it out there...
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Re: Cease and Desist Coming In 3, 2, 1...

Postby rodiziorobs » Wed Sep 06, 2017 8:03 pm

I'm a bit confused...your post makes it sound like Hasbro is the one making these, but they're not.

At the same time, these aren't new. Maybe this particular manufacturer is, but a brand called NanoBlock has been putting SW building sets out for awhile, and this looks like the same scale as those. A nephew of mine got a Vader and a Yoda for Christmas two years ago. He asked for help building one of them, and the whole time I helped I wondered how they could be legit with licensing and all that (I surmised that they probably weren't).

What the heck, here's a movie-review: The quality is fairly poor, with decent-to-medium clutch, but at least no oily texture, but the trick is that the pieces are tiny. A standard NanoBlock half-plate (not thirds like Lego) is thinner than a Lego plate, and a 1x1 footprint is about the size of a stud. Not a Lego brick mind you, the stud on top. I guess the allure is that they are more challenging to build because of their size, but the builds are straightforward (all studs on top) with hard to decipher instructions. Those models, like this one, looked weird when finished, nut at least this one appears to use some SNOT.
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Re: Cease and Desist Coming In 3, 2, 1...

Postby Dendo » Thu Sep 07, 2017 3:38 am

I love that it comes with an old west style cactus. Really rounds it out nicely.
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Re: Cease and Desist Coming In 3, 2, 1...

Postby PurpleDave » Thu Sep 07, 2017 3:47 am

I don't remember any line called "Hero Mashers", but I think Hasbro did have the short-lived "Built 2 Rule" line prior to Kre-O. I don't really remember much about it, and I certainly don't even hearing about any SW sets coming out under the Hasbro name. If that did happen, it's odd that it didn't get plastered all over every AFOL site under the sun.

Now, I do remember another non-Hasbro construction line that had the Batman license before LEGO got it, and they definitely got shut down, but it involved a crazy amount of patent violation. I specifically remember seeing clones of the left and right 2x6 triple curved slopes about a year after LEGO first started producing them.

dWhisper wrote:Well, given that rather... let's call it "charged" history between Lego and Hasbro over this licensing, I can totally see it. Hasbro opened that volley years ago when they shut down the Star Wars minifigures sets back in 2000, and those two have been going at it. They should have known better than trying to get it out there...


I've heard that Hasbro went after the magnet sets, that Lucasfilm went after the magnet sets, that nobody went after the magnet sets, and now that Hasbro went after the four minifig 3-packs (with SW stands and cardstock backgrounds), but I have yet to hear anyone who draws a LEGO paycheck weigh in on this, so I'm really not sure what to believe anymore.

rodiziorobs wrote:I'm a bit confused...your post makes it sound like Hasbro is the one making these, but they're not.


Hasbro is the litmus test. If they tried this and got shut down, than some bit player isn't likely to succeed.
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Re: Cease and Desist Coming In 3, 2, 1...

Postby TeddytheSpoon » Thu Sep 07, 2017 2:53 pm

I'm just confused about the scale about this more than anything. Is it a massive R2-D2 or is it just a tiny cactus? (Maybe like one of those little potted ones you can get.)
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Re: Cease and Desist Coming In 3, 2, 1...

Postby Flynn » Sat Sep 09, 2017 1:04 am

PurpleDave wrote:I've heard that Hasbro went after the magnet sets, that Lucasfilm went after the magnet sets, that nobody went after the magnet sets, and now that Hasbro went after the four minifig 3-packs (with SW stands and cardstock backgrounds), but I have yet to hear anyone who draws a LEGO paycheck weigh in on this, so I'm really not sure what to believe anymore.


The received wisdom is that Hasbro threw a fit over the minifig 3-packs from 2001, arguing that it infringed on their license for Star Wars action figures. Allegedly, this is why no licensed minifigures are available to buy on their own unless sold as magnets, keychains, pens, or the like.

As you point out, I don't know I've ever heard this story officially from a LEGO representative, so I can't attest to its veracity, but that's been the story I've heard since I joined the fandom about a decade ago.
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Re: Cease and Desist Coming In 3, 2, 1...

Postby PurpleDave » Sat Sep 09, 2017 7:35 am

And that's part of the problem. So many people know the "truth" about how it all happened, but there are too many versions to nail any one specific story down without official confirmation. But all I'd ever heard about were the magnets, not the 3-packs. I think I own all four, so I should have remembered them. With them thrown into the mix, it does help shape a more realistic probable timeline:

1. Four SW minifig 3-packs (with exclusive molded bases and cardstock backgrounds) were released in 2000, along with similar minifig packs for Ninja, Sports, City, and Rock Raiders. These were likely the brainchild of the former LEGO Direct division, which was also behind Cloud City. This was the only time this style of minifig pack was ever released.

2. In 2003, they started putting magnets in regular bricks, like 2x4's.

3. In 2005, they released the first minifig magnet packs where magnets were glued into the legs.

4. In 2006, they switched from the old Magnetron-style magnets to sealed magnets on train buffers.

5. In 2009, they switched from magnets glued into legs to a dedicated magnet brick designed to hold a minifig. These bricks had backs that clipped in place and then had star-drive screws for added security. I've been told by a LEGO employee that these were purposefully made to be nearly impossible to open short of destroying the plastic.

6. In 2011, they started gluing the minifig parts together and then gluing those assemblies onto the magnet bricks.

All of that is stuff that anyone can research on Bricklink except two bits on points 1 and 5. I'm guessing about LEGO Direct because I know they were in operation at that time, and I know the 3-packs were never sold through regular retail. They were exclusive to [email protected], a tiny number of LEGO Stores that were around back then, and an even tinier number of LEGOLAND theme parks and Discover Centers (assuming the latter even existed back then). The bit about the magnet bricks was told to me by someone who was on-site at Brickworld one of the first couple years I attended, but I have no idea who she was. I think she was assisting Steve Witt with setup of the LEGO booth where they would eventually show all of the sets that were due out soon after the event.

Based on how _all_ magnets were switched to sealed designs, it's pretty obvious that was done for safety concerns. Besides being a basic choking hazard for swallowing a single magnet, if you swallow two or more magnets they can attract each other in your intestines, and potentially leave you with a bowel obstruction that could kill you.

The early minifig magnet packs were often broken up for sale on Bricklink, but didn't sell well because they were inferior to stock minifigs due to the magnets glued into the legs. Once they switched to sealed magnet bricks, the now-magnetless minifigs sold a lot better because you couldn't really tell them apart, unless you knew how to identify where they were made. It's possible they were perceived to be eating into sales of regular sets, so the minifigs were glued down to prevent this (which is the most logical explanation for why _all_ the minifig magnet 3-packs got this treatment, as opposed to just the SW ones, or all licensed minifigs in general).

The minifig 3-packs from 2000 might have sold very poorly and failed to justify their continuation, which could explain why they were able to come out with magnet packs after the non-magnet packs had all pretty much gone out of stock.

So, at this point, I've heard so many conflicting stories on who issued a C&D on what, and there's so many conflicting hard facts, that I'm having a hard time believing any of this was done at the behest of an outside company. If the minifig 3-packs were shut down by Hasbro, why would they ignore minifig magnets for over half a decade? If they were only okay with the initial glued magnet-figs, why did it take two years to force a change when they switched to magnet bricks, and why did all of the original IP magnet sets get the exact same treatment? I mean, gluing the minifigs down was introduced in the Ninjago line (I remember that very specifically because that was also the first time they released the magnet bricks in black, so they were never available unglued). Aside from the introduction of minifig 3-packs and magnet 3-packs, everything on this list is so easy to explain with two causes: poor sales and improving safety. Does that mean Hasbro/Lucasfilm never got involved? No, absolutely not. But I'm not going to be convinced that they did without any sort of official confirmation, and the AFOL community has never come up with any that I've seen in almost the entire run of the LEGO SW theme.
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Re: Cease and Desist Coming In 3, 2, 1...

Postby dWhisper » Sat Sep 09, 2017 12:19 pm

The 3-pack minifigure sets were around when I was first collecting in college, and they were pulled from shelves and never refilled, so very few people got them. I never even saw them at stores where I was at. That's when the beef between Hasbro and Lego was first floated, because Hasbro holds the rights to making Star Wars action figures and saw the minifigures as competition for that. It never went through the courts as far as I know, so it was likely settled by the companies and the licensing arm of LucasFilm directly.

The safety concern and magnets is a pretty long-standing fight over magnets in toys, and not limited to Lego. There are pretty strict safety regulations about magnets in toys at this point... basically they can't be swallow-able and if the magnet is somehow taken off, it should be impossible to get two of them to prevent intestinal problems (that was the complaint that sparked the death of magnets like Buckyballs and the like).

For the magnets, I've had "off the record" discussions with Lego employees on those, the gluing of figures was far less about safety and far more about sales. They'd seen that collectors were frequently going for the magnets for rare figures instead of buying the sets (especially in stuff like Star Wars). They were ultimately killed off because other products displaced them... things like the Collectible minifigures, battle packs, and the mini-packs in non-licensed stuff.

Similarly, that sales competition is why we will never see CMF lines for an existing license theme. Lego apparently has some pretty solid numbers that a lot of shoppers will grab a figure over a full set. And while an individual CMF may have a giant markup, the profit generated by it is far smaller.

Lego is ultimately a business, and it seems pretty clear by the choices they make in recent years, who is calling the shots for products and what drives it. Creativity and innovation have taken a back seat to a blend of innovation and marketing to try and push their brand and product. When Lego has been at its best, they found a balance between all of those things, but currently, it feels very unbalanced towards design by committee and spreadsheet.
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Re: Cease and Desist Coming In 3, 2, 1...

Postby PurpleDave » Sat Sep 09, 2017 5:37 pm

Okay, I don't remember ever seeing the minifig 3-packs at retail. I also remember never buying them back then because I couldn't buy from [email protected] without mailing a check, and I swear they were a D2C exclusive. But I also didn't live anywhere near a LEGOLAND Discovery Center or a LEGO Store. Still don't live near a LEGOLAND park, but in 2010 we got a store and about a year ago we got an LDC. If they did get pulled from shelves, that is info I'd never heard before, and actually does lend support to the claim that Hasbro got involved. The only time I can recall a full recall on stock that they'd shipped to stores was when the SpongeBob license got pulled, and I remember thinking that was unusual (still is). Even TMNT keychains can still be found at the local LDC.

The magnet thing is totally understandable from a safety standpoint. Yeah, it sucks for AFOLs who can be trusted to not suck on magnets, but when you step back and look at the situation I think (hope) it would be hard to say that we'd be comfortable with kids possibly dying so we could get the old style magnets. However, I believe Buckyballs have been remarketed as an adult hobby item to skirt around safety laws on kids' toys.

The first Hasbro claim I remember hearing was that they were behind the minifigs being glued to the magnets, but recently I'd become less convinced. The first magnet minifigs didn't seem that popular because the magnets made them inferior as minifigs, and sub-par fridge magnets. The switch to bricks flooded Bricklink with enough Chinese minifigs that people were passing around knowledge about how to tell them apart. The switch to glued minifigs seemed to kill the line fairly quickly once they became just about useless as a source of minifigs. Funny how we'd been telling them for years how we wanted more minifigs, and they eventually figured out that minifigs actually do sell sets.

Now, TLM was a licensed theme with both sets and a CMF wave (and while the theme featured a few characters from original IP, like Johnny Thunder, the CMF wave is 100% licensed). TLBM is another licensed theme with sets, a CMF wave, and a rumored second wave on the way. Disney and Simpsons both have a CMF wave and one or two related high-end sets (Disney has many other sets, but only the castle matches the style of minifigs in the CMF wave). Harry Potter is rumored to be getting more sets and a first CMF wave (and if ever there was a licensed theme that was sorely in need of more minifigs...). Ninjago is original IP, but I'm not sure what the ownership is for TLNM, which has both sets and a CMF wave. I could see SW and the two Superheroes themes being off-limits for the CMF team, because they're all classified as "evergreen" themes, but for any licensed theme that has its success tied directly to the run of a movie, it's almost impossible to deplete the available characters without resorting to CMFs. I mean, imagine what they could have done with CMF waves for LotR, Indiana Jones, and PotC.

But as for the quality, anytime someone laments how LEGO has gone downhill, you can be sure of two things. None of them will ever agree 100% on which days were so glorious, and someone else will be cheering nearby about how great they've gotten lately. I've very rarely been impressed by any of the DC sets, but I've always been more interested in them for minifigs.
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Re: Cease and Desist Coming In 3, 2, 1...

Postby Flynn » Sun Sep 10, 2017 1:20 pm

I've never heard anything to do with Hasbro being upset over minifigure magnets--it's only ever been that they were upset about the minifig 3-packs.

If the minifig 3-packs were shut down by Hasbro, why would they ignore minifig magnets for over half a decade?


Because the magnets would make it an accessory rather than a figure unto itself--same thing as to why we still have SW keychains and the like. Again, the only story I've ever heard is that LEGO is not allowed to sell SW minifigures entirely on their own, without it either being an accessory like a magnet or keychain or being part of a larger set. I can't confirm that this is a true story, right now it's only alleged, but I also can't say I've heard 'so many' variations of it that it strains credulity.
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Re: Cease and Desist Coming In 3, 2, 1...

Postby PurpleDave » Mon Sep 11, 2017 1:00 pm

Well, we run in different circles. I've heard a lot of garbage rumors over the years, called many of them into question when they made no sense, and dispelled a few of them when I had the true story to back me up. I didn't really get active in the online community until 2001, and the offline community until 2002. The minifig 3-packs were short-lived enough that the initial rumors probably died off soon after the sets went away, which might explain why I missed that.

There are four generations of minifig magnets. The fourth (disc magnet with a post into the back of the torso) was almost completely useless for cheap minifigs because the torso was ruined. The third was mostly useless, but there were tutorials on how to free the legs from the magnet bricks, and if the legs weren't decorated you could always destroy them and put new ones on the hips. The first generation I've never seen loose in person, so I don't know if the magnets actually interfered with their connection points. The second generation, on the other hand, was essentially just a return to the minifig 3-packs with magnet bricks subbed in for the 6x6 bases. Hasbro should have been all over that, and LEGO's legal team should have anticipated that. And the rumor was specific to the switch from 2nd Gen to 3rd Gen, which is when it would make the most sense. As for why you never heard about it, I remember that there was an initial uproar over the change, and then people generally stopped caring about the minifig magnets altogether. At that point, the rumor probably fell out of casual conversation, just like any similar claims about the 3-packs.

The fact that both versions of the rumor failed to become widespread, and that nobody has been able to provide concrete proof, makes me wonder if they both failed to spread to multiple sites. Otherwise, each of us should have heard both tumors, and at some point someone should have chased down the official story (or at least a denial of the rumor).

BTW, I know there are a lot of people who buy keychains to convert into minifigs. A couple years ago they changed the hips and torso so the neck post is now molded into the hips instead of the torso. That was probably also done to make it harder to extract the keychain anchor from the minifig body.
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Re: Cease and Desist Coming In 3, 2, 1...

Postby GrayMattR » Mon Sep 11, 2017 7:17 pm

These are one of the minifigure packs that Hasbro complained about: https://brickset.com/sets/3340-1/Empero ... tar-Wars-1

They immediately went on clearance on the Lego Store website and people repoted seeing them at discount stores like Dollar General. If I remember right, Jake McGee was the person that relayed the Hasbro tiff. He was TLG's main (and basically only) liaison with the AFOL community.

BTW, I've bought keychain figs and removed the chain to make a "regular" fig rather than buying a set I didn't want just for the fig. :D
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