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From: "Tomas Clark" <>
X-Real-Life-Name: Tomas Clark
Subject: LEGO Company position on third-party programs for LEGO MINDSTORMS
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Organization: LEGO Direct
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Date: Mon, 10 Sep 2001 23:04:36 GMT
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This is an announcement regarding robotics and LEGO MINDSTORMS. Since the
recent article from Business 2.0, we have heard many questions about LEGO
trademarks, programs like LegOS, reverse engineering, and so forth.
Hopefully the following statement from the LEGO MINDSTORMS team will answer
these. Please follow-up in lugnet.robotics or to

Clarification from the LEGO(R) MINDSTORMStm team

Those of you who have read or heard about the recent article on LEGO
MINDSTORMS in Business 2.0 may be wondering what our position is regarding
third-party programs such as LegOS. Truth be told, we were also somewhat
surprised by the article, which doesn't really represent our views and
misquotes several LEGO employees.

So here's the deal: the LEGO Company does not have a problem with people
writing their own software and code meant for use with LEGO MINDSTORMS
products. In fact, exactly the opposite -- we absolutely love what people
have done to extend the possibilities of LEGO MINDSTORMS. Taking something
apart, putting it back together, making it into your own creation that does
what you want it to do -- this is what LEGO is all about! We feel very
strongly that extensions and modifications by independent programmers have
made LEGO MINDSTORMS a much better product.

We'd like more people to be aware of the tremendous possibilities of the RCX
brick and all the great work people in the global LEGO MINDSTORMS community
have done -- tools like NQC, pbForth, LegOS, etc. In fact, we recently
decided that we wanted to add a links page to the official LEGO MINDSTORMS
Web site, highlighting the different third-party programs and tools out there.

This new proposed page, along with some reorganization in the LEGO
MINDSTORMS team, prompted a close look at the company's relationship to
third-party programs. If we wanted to link to non-official software, what
kind of disclaimer did we need? We discussed what we wanted to do with our
legal team: the sites we wanted to link to, and the various third-party
programs, applications, and operating systems available on the net. The
point of concern that came up was not the development or distribution of
these programs, but the use of our trademarks in some program names.

Again, not a problem with the programs themselves, or with hacking LEGO
MINDSTORMS software and hardware in general. To be absolutely clear: we have
never sued, are not suing, and do not contemplate suing anyone for taking
apart LEGO MINDSTORMS and writing their own code to extend the product, or
for distributing that code for free.

Trademarks can be diluted -- and therefore decline in value -- if they are
frequently used in connection with products and services that are not
created or authorized by the trademark-holding company. If trademarks become
diluted, the company no longer has any reason to create more products that
bear those marks.

As a result, there are certain words that we absolutely must protect for the
sake of our business and the future of LEGO products. These words are our
trademarks: LEGO, MINDSTORMS, RCX, and Robotics Invention System (RIS). Many
enthusiasts and observers on sites like Lugnet and Slashdot have recognized
that there are very good reasons why have to limit the use of these words.
If we don't defend these trademarks, there's a chance that we could lose
them in the future -- because trademark owners are required to supervise the
creation of products bearing the trademark. There's also a possibility for
confusion in some people's minds about whether a program that uses these
trademarks is an official LEGO product, whether the company is responsible
for its performance and support, etc.

For these reasons we have now asked and will continue to ask that the
authors using these trademarks in the names of programs, operating systems,
etc. change the names in all future versions. We're not asking that all
existing copies of the software be renamed, or anything extreme like that;
we simply ask that you not use our trademarks in the name of your programs,
just as we ask that you abide by the Fair Play Policy posted on our site
( when using our trademarks on
Web sites.

Below is a copy of the letter that we are sending out to the authors
mentioned above. Note that LegOS is one of these programs -- although we are
aware that it can be split into "Leg" and "Operating System," the similarity
between "LegOS" and "LEGO," considering LegOS is designed to work with LEGO
products, is simply too great to ignore. Note also that there are many names
out there in the community which do not infringe on trademarks at all:
pbFORTH, Gordon's Brick Programmer, etc.

We sincerely hope that all of these programs, operating systems, and other
third-party tools continue to be developed and used, and that a change of
names is not too great an inconvenience for the contributors and authors of
the few programs, which are affected. Thanks for your understanding and
support -- and your contributions to an excellent system of robotics.

We invite replies to this post, or inquiries via e-mail at
Also, please feel free to repost this message in other appropriate forums,
mailing lists, etc. -- you can help spread the word about our policy on
naming and the reasons for it.


Date: Fri, 07 Sep 2001 18:06:20 -0400
To: [author]
Subject: A message from the LEGO MINDSTORMS team

Dear [author],

We wanted to let you know that we're working on a new page for the official
LEGOŽ MINDSTORMS(tm) website ( a list of "hacker
links" to resources around the web for advanced users of LEGO MINDSTORMS.
Naturally, we'd like to include a link to your site. The list is sure to
generate a lot of traffic and will be at the core of an important section on
our site.

As you know, LEGO tries to protect its trademarks vigilantly. Keeping an eye
on our trademarks reduces that chance that the public will be deceived by
products that are not created by the LEGO Group and greatly helps us to
prevent counterfeiting. With strong trademarks, we can maintain the internal
company support necessary to help the LEGO MINDSTORMS line continue to
thrive and grow.

We've seen a number of software applications for use with LEGO MINDSTORMS
that use our trademarks in their names. Although we are pretty sure that
neither you nor any of the other software authors are trying to fool people
into thinking that your software is an official LEGO product, we still have
to protect our trademarks strongly. If we don't, there's a chance that LEGO
could one day lose its right to protect those trademarks against the real
counterfeiters. That's the way the legal world works.

To get to the point, we must ask that the authors of these applications
migrate to new names that do not use our trademarks and, therefore, do not]
violate our Fair Play policy ( The
trademarks that cannot be used include the following words:

Robotics Invention System

We greatly value the contribution that all the LEGO MINDSTORMS software
authors out there have made to the LEGO MINDSTORMS community, and again,
we're not accusing anyone of malicious wrongdoing; it's just a matter of a
few words that have to stay off-limits for the greater good of the survival

Here are some examples of names that are perfectly fine:

Mind Control
Brick Programmer
pbFORTH (aka Programmable Brick FORTH)
Gordon's Brick Programmer

We do realize that some of the software applications which do include our
trademarks in their names are in wide circulation and would be difficult to
remove from all the sites that are distributing them. Therefore, while it is
preferable, we are not asking that you try to rename or remove all the older
versions of your applications that are out there! We only ask that you
rename the current and future versions that you distribute, and that you
make a good faith effort to get the renamed applications into circulation.

We appreciate your support and your understanding. If you have any
questions, we invite you to contact us at the email address below.


From: "Tomas Clark" <>
X-Real-Life-Name: Tomas Clark
Subject: Re: LEGO Company position on third-party programs for LEGO MINDSTORMS
Content-Type: text/plain; charset=iso-8859-1
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Organization: LEGO Direct
Message-ID: <>
References: <>
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Date: Fri, 28 Sep 2001 15:27:26 GMT
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The magazine Business 2.0 recently published an article on the LEGO Company,
hackers, and our position on development of alternative software and
operating systems for the LEGO MINDSTORMS product.  At the request of the
Paul Keegan, the author of the article, regarding the semantics of our
response (see to that article,
we are providing a clarification.  We wrote that "the article misquotes
several LEGO employees."  Though LEGO employees may not have been directly
misquoted in the story, we do believe strongly that employee comments were
taken out of context and reported in a misleading fashion.  Our Company
position, which unequivocally supports the hacker community in its
contributions to LEGO MINDSTORMS, remains unchanged.

Tomas Clark
Producer, LEGO Direct

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