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Toy Maker Sues Android Tablet Maker Over 'Transformer' Tablet

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Hasbro is suing California computer maker Asus, saying the company’s new Transformer Prime tablet violates trademarks related to popular children’s action toys.

The Transformer Prime, which uses the Android-operating system, touts itself as a potential rival to popular alternatives like Apple’s iPad and Amazon’s Kindle Fire. The Asus device doesn’t appear to change shapes into a truck or a robot but it does feature an attached QWERTY-style keyboard.

The lawsuit was filed in Los Angeles federal court last week. In an email statement to paidContent, Hasbro wrote:

“Hasbro continues to aggressively protect its brands and products and the specific actions we are taking today against Asus underscores yet again Hasbro’s willingness to pursue companies who misappropriate our intellectual property for their own financial gain.”

Asus could not immediately be reached for comment.

Hasbro is seeking damages and a temporary injunction to prevent Asus from selling the tablet which is currently available from Amazon (NSDQ: AMZN) and other retailers.

On its face, Hasbro’s lawsuit seems like a long shot since it’s unlikely that consumers would mix up children’s toy and a tablet gizmo of the same name. Trademark law typically only applies to certain categories of goods — that’s why, for instance, Delta Faucets and Delta airlines can co-exist. But Hasbro is likely to argue that the popular Transformers brand is expanding rapidly (it also includes a movie franchise) and so the name should be protected for a wider category of goods.

Hat tip to Jonathan Fingas who has noted below that the most famous Transformer character is named Optimus Prime. Hasbro’s case for consumer confusion over “Transformer Prime” is looking a little bit stronger..

As for Asus, the company is still a minnow in a booming tablet market that is for now dominated by the iPad.

The case is Hasbro Inc v. Asus Computer International Inc et al

15 Responses to “Toy Maker Sues Android Tablet Maker Over 'Transformer' Tablet”

  1. The television show Transformers Prime debuted on the Hub network in November 2010.  Not only is it very popular but it’s probably the only thing keeping the network alive, which makes it a very valuable property indeed.

    And while you can have Delta Airlines and Delta Faucets, it’s blatantly obvious in this case that Asus is trying to cash in on the popularity of the Transformers franchise.  They may have gotten away with a range of tablets called “Transformer”, but once they added “Prime” to the name I think they pushed their luck just a little too far.

    But what the hell.  There’s no such thing as bad press, right?

  2. A transformer is a device that transfers electrical energy from one circuit to another through inductively coupled conductors—the transformer’s coils. A varying current in the first or primary winding creates a varying magnetic flux in the transformer’s core and thus a varying magnetic field through the secondary winding. This varying magnetic field induces a varying electromotive force (EMF), or “voltage”, in the secondary winding. This effect is called inductive coupling. Lifted from wiki. What next? Always going after the Ipad?

    • Hey Atlis..why is someone standing up for their legal rights stupid or a game?  Behind every company are real people feeding real families and feeding off every company is an ecosystem of real companies and real people.  You want to see what happens when real change occurs?  Ask any of the hundreds of thousands of people who USED to work in the record industry, video rental industry, book retail industry, physical game industry and many people at grunt level who used to work in film and TV.  Sure they are all victims of a tidal wave of technology driven change and no industry has a right to exist per se, but you cannot fault people for asserting their legal rights and trying to defend their ability to feed their families. Make no mistake win or loss most of the cases you find so boring will not change the life of the guys in the boardroom.  They might though result in the loss of a thousand jobs of people earning sub six figures below them.  THAT is what the “stupid law suit game” is all about.

      PS If Asus were so inspired by Transformers they could have just called Hasbro’s licensing department and I am sure done a great deal to benefit everyone

  3. Wow, I thought Asus made an agreement with Hasbro regarding the Transformer name on its tablet line. Dave Zan and I indeed are not the only people who thought that somehow that tablet has a connection with the movie or the toy.
    I don’t know if Hasbro should sue Asus or not, but definitely Asus capitalize something from the Transformer movie title.

  4. Honestly when I saw the Asus Transformer line first come out in my country, I immediately thought it’s a play on the Transformers play line. Call me stupid, but that’s what really came to my mind.

    Don’t be surprised if countless others thought the same way. Some (if not many of them) just won’t bother to state it online. :)

  5. Okay, angry comments from others notwithstanding, there’s zero doubt ASUS is relying on the whole Transformers connection to make sales.  Everyone who buys makes that association with Optimus Prime, even if we know it’s not the same as the robot.