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Summary:

(Updated to include Hasbro response)

In a court ruling that reads at times like a pop culture or consumer gadget review, a federal judge ga…

Transformer / robot
photo: Shutterstock / anyunov

(Updated to include Hasbro response)

In a court ruling that reads at times like a pop culture or consumer gadget review, a federal judge gave tablet maker Asus a green light to sell its “Transformer” tablets.

Hasbro filed a lawsuit against Asus late last year that claimed the Transformer Prime would lead to confusion with its popular toy robots. As the judge explained:

“The Autobots are led by the virtuous Optimus Prime character, while the Decepticons follow the powerful Megatron. According to Hasbro, Optimus Prime is intended to epitomize honor, duty, leadership, and freedom.”

Hasbro tried to persuade the court that consumers would believe the Asus tablets were connected to the toy franchise. The company pointed out that its transformer toy decal had been used on products like USB storage drives, computer mouses, skins for laptops, speaker heads and iPod docks. The court also took note that:

“In the third film, an Autobot character known as “Brains” disguised itself as a Lenovo ThinkPad Edge Plus laptop [...] Hasbro developed the “Transformers Prime” animated television series, which began airing in approximately November 2010. The series focuses on the life and story of the Optimus Prime character. “Prime” was added to the “Transformers” mark in the program’s name to emphasize this focus. Thus far, the series has received several Emmy nominations and awards and has been aired in 170 countries.”

But the judge refused to believe that consumers would be confused into believing that Asus’s tablet was a Hasbro product:

“There is nothing gimmicky about the Eee Pad Transformer or the Eee Pad Transformer Prime, nor can it be said that there is any similarity in the use or function between Hasbro and Asus’s
products.”

The court also found that Asus’ case was strengthened because it was using the word “transformer” as an accurate description because it can” “‘transform’ into a laptop computer when attached to its accompanying QWERTY keyboard dock.”

Finally, the judge suggested that Hasbro had waited too long to act and was not entitled to a preliminary injunction even though the toy company says it plans to launch a line of “Transformer Prime” merchandise this month.

Update: Hasbro responded with the following statement:

“Hasbro strongly disagrees with the Court’s decision not to preliminarily enjoin Asus’ use of those marks, however we were pleased with the Court’s views on the strength of Hasbro’s TRANSFORMERS and TRANSFORMERS PRIME marks. While the case proceeds toward trial, Hasbro will continue to actively pursue this matter and will take all steps necessary to protect its globally recognized and established marks.”

The order also reveals that the Transformer Prime is, for now, no iPad: “as of February 24, 2012, it had received over 2,000 pre-orders … and that retailer fulfillment orders for the next two months total approximately 80,000 tablet computers.”

  1. “The order also reveals that the Transformer Prime is, for now, no iPad: “as of February 24, 2012, it had received over 2,000 pre-orders … and that retailer fulfillment orders for the next two months total approximately 80,000 tablet computers.””
    The Asus Transformer Prime was released in December 2011…not sure where this information about pre-orders as of February 2012 came from…but it is definitely not accurate.  It sold out at launch and no retailer has been able to keep it on the shelf due to its popularity…

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    1.  Even if what you say is true, it doesn’t indicate the number of units ordered or sold.

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  2. Craigy, thanks for your comment. The information appears to have been provided to the court by Asus itself. Here’s the full passage:

    For some of the same reasons discussed in concluding that the balance of the hardshipsfavors Asus, the Court concludes that the present injunction would not serve the public interest. First, as noted, Asus contends that a recall would hurt its component suppliers and fabricators,and submits that as of February 24, 2012, it had received over 2,000 pre-orders (end usercustomers who have ordered Asus tablet computers and given credit card information), and thatretailer fulfillment orders for the next two months total approximately 80,000 tablet computers. See Hsu Decl

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    1.  Do you have a link to the ruling?
      Thanks

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  3. Been trying to get my grubby little hands on one for months… By the time they get them in stock in most retail stores the Infinity is going to be for sale ;-)

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    1. Hope I’m not being too sensitive to your comments but the infinity is not even in production. It might even change in it’s design and come out next year. According to suppliers, Asus continued to make the Prime. So they had 6 weeks to make tens of thousands of tablets to fulfill the demand. BestBuy has been taking orders in store waiting for the green light to ship and sale quantities already in stock. The Prime was in stock in January and February everywhere. Hasbro filed a cease and desist order to keep Asus from selling the Prime on February 16, so your claims of “months” is faulty. The prime just came out December 22, so they were in stock as of February and not in March. Maybe weeks… :-o

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  4. Cut out the legal crap its so obivous that they are stealing the idea, worst they are not ashame at all. That’s the reason why Chinese manufacturers 
    (pls. skip the argument if it is part of China) are still being looked down not matter how much they earn. There is no honor in them.

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