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Innovation of the Week: A knockoff Lego ISIS set

Macro view of heap of color plastic toy bricks. Selective focus effect

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What is it? Counterfeit Lego set of ISIS fighters

Innovator A knockoff toymaker

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What were they thinking? China’s sprawling knockoff industry can respond to just about any phenomenon — mimicking trendy handbags, spitting out imitations of the latest electronics, and, now, creating phony Lego figurines of the terrorist organization ISIS. The sets, according to Singapore’s Straits Times, include characters “carrying the ISIS flag, launching sticks of dynamite, and firing AK-47s.” One online retailer recently described a figurine named “ISIS Jihadi John” as an “extremist who enjoys blowing things up for fun.” “One day,” the description continued, “he’ll blow himself up.”

Did it work? Online and brick-and-mortar stores in Singapore and Malaysia have stopped selling the figurines amid concerns about glorifying ISIS, suggesting that China’s ability to churn out knockoffs may occasionally outstrip the wisdom of doing so. But if history is any guide, the industry will churn out more ill-considered products in the near future. It wasn’t so long ago, after all, that a brothel-style set — which the Internet dubbed “Lego Whorehouse” — appeared in an online shop in China.

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