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‘Queer Eye’ Lego Set Sparks Fashion Designer’s Lawsuit

A fashion designer is suing the toy giant Lego for including a copyrighted jacket he created for Antoni Porowski in its recent “Queer Eye” set.

Filed in a Connecticut district court last month, James Concannon’s lawsuit claims that a body piece included in October’s “Queer Eye – The Fab 5 Loft” set “painstakingly copied not only the individual creative elements of the Concannon Jacket, but the unique placement, coordination, and arrangement of those individual artistic elements as well.” The litigation seeks damages and any profits or gain by Lego “attributable to infringement of [Concannon’s] copyrights.”

According to the suit, an employee at ITV America, the producer of Netflix’s “Queer Eye” reboot, initially reached out to Concannon in 2017 saying Porowski was interested in wearing three of his T-shirts over the course of the show’s first season. Attached to that email was a release form, which Concannon says he signed, granting ITV, and by extension Netflix, the right to display his creations on the show.

James Concannon claims Lego’s “Queer Eye – The Fab 5 Loft” includes a piece inspired by a copyright protected jacket he gifted Antoni Porowski.
Lego

Eventually, Concannon and Porowski connected through social media and became friends. In the following years, Concannon said, he gifted the “Queer Eye” cast member “several” custom creations. Whenever Porowski would wear one of these pieces on the show, its producers would ask the designer to sign a release. The one time they did not seek his permission, Concannon claims, was in 2018, when the show featured the jacket at issue in his suit against Lego. At the time, he said, he “figured this was simply an oversight on Netflix’s part and was not disturbed.”

Concannon’s lawsuit asserts that this jacket is copyright protected. According to the United States Copyright Office’s entry for the piece, it was created in 2018 and published Sept. 14, 2018.  The copyright’s registration date, however, is listed as Nov. 26, 2021, more than a month after the Lego set was released.

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Lego unveiled the “Queer Eye -The Fab 5 Loft” set in mid-September. Released on Oct. 1, it features the “Queer Eye” leads remade in Lego form. In Porowski’s case, the set offers two body pieces, one of which appears to replicate the 2018 jacket that Concannon claims he never signed a release for.

James Concannon claims Lego’s “Queer Eye – The Fab 5 Loft” includes a piece inspired by a copyright protected jacket he gifted Antoni Porowski.
James Concannon

Though the disputed piece differs in some aspects from the real jacket, statements from Lego appear to confirm that it was indeed inspired by Concannon’s creation. The fashion designer’s lawsuit points to a line from a video released by Lego in which a senior graphic designer says Antoni “has a really iconic leather jacket that we redid in Lego version” before cutting to an image of the allegedly infringing piece. Concannon further argues that Lego “exploited” his jacket through its “aggressive marketing” of the set, including by featuring the body piece on the set’s packaging and recreating it in an animated video posted to Lego’s social media.

Concannon claims that he reached out to Lego “immediately.” After several calls, a switchboard operator reportedly offered him a free Fab 5 Loft set. When it didn’t arrive, the designer says Lego told him the operator had been wrong and that “Lego does not give away its sets for free.” Eventually, he connected with an attorney, who sent Lego a cease-and-desist letter. According to Concannon, Lego’s lawyers responded by arguing that Concannon had granted Netflix an “implied license” to use the jacket when he gifted it to Porowski.

Lego declined to comment.