Last modified 2023-03-06.
Time to read: 4 minutes.
To the developers of the excellent ‘lego’ GitHub project
The name of this project is problematic, and you publicly dismissed the issue when it was brought to your attention. While ignorance of the law is no defense; demonstrably flaunting another party’s rights never has positive consequences.
The LEGO Group has not taken legal action yet, but the laws of most countries (including the US) are that if a trademark is not defended, then the trademark is at risk of being lost.
You should expect to receive a legal notice at some point. Not because the trademark owners are evil, but because they have a duty to their company, and the well-being of their employees, and a duty to their shareholders.
Your disregard for the LEGO Group's rights constituted a real and present danger to them, their employees and shareholders. They are compelled to address threats against their well-being.
Not only must a trademark holder defend their trademark, they must be seen to defend it. That means taking action that is publicly visible. For example, they might include GitHub and maybe even Microsoft in the legal action against you.
The LEGO Group would likely include GitHub/Microsoft in the case, even though they know that Section 230 would probably be found to apply (in due course), and GitHub/Microsoft would not be found to be liable – after they spent several million dollars in a successful legal defense.
It is easy to understand the motivation for the LEGO Group deliberately ‘losing’ at the attempt to ensnare GitHub/Microsoft in this court case. You would have caused GitHub/Microsoft an unnecessary and pointless waste of time and resources, and it would be shown that you knew better. Remember, you have already been publicly been warned that there would likely be consequences – yet you chose to ignore the warning.
This would likely motivate GitHub/Microsoft to protect themselves against similar misguided behavior of other GitHub users. Restrictive policies and procedures would likely get implemented, and the entire world would know that the resulting degraded GitHub experience was your fault. You would be vilified by every other GitHub user. Not a great thing for your resume.
... And GitHub/Microsoft might ask you to pay their legal expenses.
Do You Have Families?
Please understand that because you are acting as an informal collection of individuals, everyone who ever contributed to this project is exposed to signficant financial risk. The LEGO Group would probably not attempt to narrow down the guilty individuals – identifying the guilty and assigning punishment would be the outcomes of the court case. Instead, they would likely include every contributor in the litigation; that means every committer.
You are risking the financial well-being of your families ... just because you like a cute play on words?
Rational people would not expose themselves to significant risk without any prospect of signficant benefit, and when not faced with dire necessity.
If you presently balk at paying a lawyer to advise you on this matter, that cost will be as nothing compared to the world of hurt you are likely to find yourselves in if you do not change the name of your project.
From a technical aspect, you have done excellent work on your project, and you are freely providing the world a valuable benefit. Unfortunately, you trampled the rights of another in doing so... and for no reason. Please act on this before the inevitable negative consequences arise. Do not poke the bear because you are curious to see what it will do.
The wheels of corporate law grind slowly, and huge amounts of money are spent.
According to the path you are now on,
the committers of this project may be subjected to immense financial and mental burdens.
Broken families and suicides may result.
Please heed this warning. If nothing bad has ever happened to you yet in life, rest assured that Lachesis, Atropos and Clotho will inevitably make themselves known. Do not let arrogance and pride ruin you.
Because you have done good work,
and it would be a shame to see you suffer.
I have no relationship with the LEGO Group, or any individuals associated with them. Please consider this as a notice freely offered for public service.
Although I have experience working as an expert witness in the US Federal legal system as a software expert, I am not a lawyer and I have no legal training. However, I have seen corporate legal machinery at work many times, up close. I have spent thousands of hours working with corporate attorneys in the US and Europe. My clients have included Adobe, Amazon/AWS, Apple, and SAP.