The origins of LEGO (a name taken from the first two letters of leg godt, which means 'play well' in Danish) lie in a woodworking business established by Oleg Kirk Christiansen in Billund, Denmark, in 1932. In 1947, the Lego Group became the first toy manufacturer in the nation to buy a plastic injection-moulding machine. This purchase paved the way for the introduction of 'Automatic Binding Bricks' in 1949. They featured the same dimpled tops as today's LEGO components, lacking only the plastic tubes embedded in their undersides for the studs to lock into. The key patent incorporating this innovation (US 30050282) was filed in July 1958 and granted on 24 October 1961.
With its core technology protected, the Lego Group thrived, but in 1988 the last significant patent for the binding brick system expired. A number of competitors now entered the picture. Many, including Mega Blocks, Tyco Toys and Coko, introduced products that were compatible with LEGO bricks. The Danish company has mounted vigorous legal campaigns against such firms, with varying success. In 2002, a Beijing court ordered Coko to cease production of 33 types of brick deemed to infringe LEGO copyrights. In 2005, however, the Supreme Court of Canada rejected the Group's attempt to prevent Mega Blocks manufacturing LEGO-like components on the grounds that the dimples on LEGO bricks amounted to a trademark.
In addition to invoking trademark and copyright law, in recent years the Lego Group has sought to shore up its IP position by concentrating its patenting energies on specific toy sets rather than the bricks themselves.