Technica - 1949
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1949


The Automatic Binding Brick

Ole Kirk Christensen was a carpenter and joiner by trade. His primary business was carpentry for the farmers homes in and around his hometown of Billund, Denmark. As the depression of the 1930's hit the region there was little in the way of work so Ole branched out into small household items such as ladders, ironing boards and, notably, wooden toys. Working by the motto "Det bedste er ikke for godt" - Only the best is good enough - the wooden toys became known in Denmark for their high quality (1).

Soon the toys became the primary focus of his business and in 1934 Ole named the company Lego, a contraction of the Danish "Leg Godt", or play well.

He bought an injection molding machine after the war, one of the very first in Denmark, and began producing plastic toys. The early plastic toys were essentially copies of his previous wooden toys -- boats, tractors, baby rattles. But when he came to the block he had a different design in mind -- one that would better utlilze the new medium.

  The Kiddicraft Brick:   Hilary Fisher Page founded Kiddicraft in the early 1930's in Great Britain. He was one of the first to apply child psychology to toy design. Among his many toys was the Kiddicraft Self-Locking Building Brick, originally patented in 1940 (2). The bricks were hollow rectangular plastic blocks with 4 round studs on top. The sides of the blocks could fit between the studs of another block allowing children to build up structures such as walls.

UK patent 529,580: 29K
   
Page patented several improvements to the basic design and the final form, developed in 1945, included slits down the side of the brick allowing flat panel-like windows or doors to be added to constructions.

UK patent 633,055: 61K
 
The Automatic Binding Brick:
 
According to court testimony OKC had received drawings and samples of Hilary Fischer Page's Kiddicraft blocks in 1947, the same year Lego bought its first injection molding machine (3).

His first plastic building blocks, the Automatic Binding Bricks, were released in 1949 and are almost exact copies of the Kiddicraft blocks. The bricks are rectangular blocks made from cellulose acetate with round studs on the top, slits down the sides and completely hollow undersides. The 1949 version had no identifying marks anywhere on the brick.

1949 Automatic Binding Brick
   
These first sets were sold only in Denmark. They were not widely distributed and many were returned unsold to Lego.

The next version of the brick was produced around 1950. It was the same as the original brick except it had the name LEGO in large block letters on the underside.

1950 Automatic Binding Bricks
   

Page did not live to see the success of the Lego brick, he committed suicide in 1957, a year before Lego marketed its brick in England. Lego bought all of the residual rights to the Kiddicraft block in 1981.


(1) The official early history is well recounted in Weincek, H. The World of Lego Toys. New York: Harry Abrams, 1987 (ISBN 0-8109-1790-4) and Kristiansen, K.K. The Ultimate Lego Book. New York: Dorling Kindersley, 1999 (ISBN 0-7894-4691-X), although, not suprisingly, neither mentions the Kiddicraft brick.

(2) Page was granted several patents during the 1940's and 50's:
UK patent 529,580. Nov 29, 1940. The original 2 x 2 brick.
UK patent 587,206. Apr 17, 1947. The 2 x 4 brick.
UK patent 633,055. Jun 25, 1949. Slits in the sides for windows.
UK patent 673,857. May 11, 1952. The baseplate.

(3) Interlego A.G. v. Tyco Industries [1989] 1 A.C. 217

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