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July 21, 2007

LEGO Brand Name Usage Pretty Complicated

LEGO bricksAn amusing post by Ken Jennings caught my eye this morning: Ken takes on one of the bugbears of product naming: How the heck do we use the word "Lego" without offending the company?

Seems that one of his readers wants us to use the word as LEGO, and we never add an "s", something I have written about before. The LEGO Company agrees.

Ken notes that the Chicago Manual of Style doesn't seem to agree, stating that the way we write ad copy is different from the way we write prose in other contexts. This means the all-caps formulation is not necessary.

Ken points out that a quick Google search (almost used that word as a verb) shows us that people just ignore these injunctions.

And nobody uses the term "LEGO bricks" — some of my staff have bags of the stuff and even though they are about as brand name conscious as can be, they admit to never, ever suggesting to their kids that they go "make something out of those LEGO bricks." It's "go make something out of Lego," which is a no-no, just as bad as "Go play with some Legos."

Friday's "Secret Diary of Steve Jobs" accuses Google employees of being "a bunch of spoiled coddled self-involved Lego-playing 20-somethings" — no, according to LEGO, they should be "spoiled twenty-somethings playing with LEGO bricks," which doesn't really work in context.

You also cannot point out to the world that "Salt n' Pepper's Here... in Lego Form" as Gearlog does in regard to a pretty nifty salt and pepper set made of LEGO bricks.

Plus you cannot tell the world about a Self-Stirring LEGO Mug (Gizmodo got the words right but forgot that nagging "bricks" as well as the registration mark).

On the other hand, maybe LEGO should just give it up and be happy that their brand name is so well recognized.

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Posted by William Lozito at July 21, 2007 10:31 AM
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I used to run a computer games company and we did a bunch of games for LEGO. Even today, I can't write the word LEGO without capitalising it. They were VERY serious about this and we had to get it right.

I think LEGO cares about this because of their trademarking requirements. It's a bit like other companies insisting on using (tm) or (r) after everything, every time they appear (Intel is a good example).

If you work for the company, you have to play by their rules. If you are writing in the media, you don't have a trademark to defend so who cares?

Personally, my vote for daft product names goes to Microsoft (full disclosure: they are a client of mine) who insist that Office 2007 is written "the 2007 Microsoft Office system" (or something like that, I forget without the manual). Lower case S, year first - it's crazy. Again, with the trademarks, I think.

One final thought is that calling LEGO bricks "Legos" is an Americanism. In the UK, you never hear that expression. We do actually call them "Lego bricks" or "playing with Lego" where LEGO is one of those weird singular-as-plural things like "500 sail of ships."

When I was a kid all I dreamed about was buying more LEGO. Now I'm a grown-up and I have the money to buy all the LEGO I want, I don't have the time. All I can do is blog about it. It's sad really. I must go buy some.

You made some good points there. I did a search on the topic and found most people will agree with your blog.

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