At January 28, 1958, an express courier walked into the office of patent agency Hofman-Bang & Boutard in Copenhagen, with a piece of paper, on which was drawn the specifications for the LEGO brick – all studs and tubes, and a hand glued mock up of the 2×4 brick. At 1:58 pm apparently – read 11:58 pm Australian Eastern Summer Time – the patent was filed.
Only 5 days earlier, Godfredt Kirk Christiansen, the second generation owner of the company, had been in a meeting with colleagues: his brother Karl Georg and the head ofthe German sales office, Axel Thomsen. The latter had brought news of complaints from his customers about the way that the bricks did not hold together well.
They had sat down, with the intention to solve the issue of clutch power, and its apparent absence. (I like to imagine that the solution was sketched out on the back of a napkin, but historians have revealed this to be nothing more than personal whimsy).
On his way home from filing this document, which showed bricks with 2 tubes on the underside (amongst other things), Godtfred realised that this idea could be greatly enhanced therough the addition of a third tube. Returning to Billund, he had Ove Nielsen, who managed the injection moulding shop, glue together a prototype based on the 2 tube moulds they had initially lodged with the original application..
It took several months for patents to be taken out across Europe, and the American patent wasnt filed until 1961, but today is the anniversary of the day that it all started. The patent is not for the studs and tubes that give us the clutch power we take for granted, but rather for a system of bricks that meant that several interlocking bricks “…could be put together in a great number of mutually different positions…” (Quote from the original Danish Patent application).
This year, celebration of the interlocking building system feels especially poignant: the company will be celebrating its 90th birthday later in the year, and I am secretly hoping that we will be the ones getting the presents…
What would sort of present would you like to see?
Buildable bricks? Vignettes from LEGO History? An epic biopic about the Christiansen familya and legacy? Classic Themes Reborn? Apps that do what they have been promised to do? Why don’t you leave your comments below, and until next time,