Before the weekend a post on reddit revealed that certain limitations are being enacted on intellectual property-related creations and customized LEGO pieces on Bricklink. This happens in spite of CMO Julia Goldin’s assurances that the LEGO group would not change Bricklink after the acquisition. However, she also stated that none-LEGO branded products would not be allowed to continue on the platform. Why is that?
This AFOL believes that the answer is straight-forward: brand control. Limiting the sale of custom pieces is probably an attempt to avoid confusion of what is and what is not official LEGO bricks. If custom pieces are sold on a LEGO-branded platform, the LEGO group (TLG) is likely to be held accountable for any issues with custom pieces by private customers. Moreover, private customers may begin to wonder why certain custom pieces aren’t available directly from the TLG. This kind of confusion is unwanted for any company trying to retain a level of brand control.
But why limit the sharing of intellectual property inspired custom creations (like Avengers, Back to the Future etc. creations)? My guess is that this is a question of copyright. TLG has different deals with IP-owners – Disney being one. TLG does not want to break those deals by hosting material that might be copyright-infringing on their platform. Moreover, TLG has official LEGO sets in the Harry Potter, Spider-Man etc. themes. Custom creations within these themes may be confused with official LEGO sets. This is both an issue for TLG in relation to their quality guarantee, ease-of-build policy and as potential competition to their own products.
Users of Bricklink is likely to experience some hassle if they have previously relied on custom pieces and creations. However, to TLG brand-control is likely more important. In any case custom LEGO pieces and creations are probably available on other platforms and those who are interested can go there.
From a brand-management perspective these changes makes a lot of sense to this AFOL