Will Hasbro’s ‘Transformers’ Stand Up in Trademark Infringement Battle?

By Joseph Mandour on January 9, 2012

toys_transformersOrange County – Last month, American board game and toymaker Hasbro filed a trademark infringement lawsuit against Asus Computer International over use of the word “Transformer” for its new high end tablet/laptop hybrid computer dubbed the “Transformer Prime.”

For the past three decades, Hasbro has fascinated children worldwide with its line of alien toy robots called “Transformers.” The line of popular toy robots quickly expanded to comic books, an animated television series, and feature films. Now, the Pawtucket, Rhode Island manufacturer is claiming that the defendant’s use of its trademark will “undermine the decades of time and millions of dollars” that Hasbro has invested into “Transformers.”

Not surprisingly, Asus responded to the trademark infringement complaint with the argument that consumers will not likely be confused between a tablet computer and a child’s robot toy. However, Hasbro has a long history of vehemently protecting its intellectual property, with many interesting and often amusing cases to prove it. Last year, the toymaker sent the Senate campaign for Sharon Angle a cease and desist letter because the Nevada Republican never asked permission to use the rights to Monopoly for its “Harry Reid Amnesty Game” website.

As for the Asus Computer case, Hasbro was quick to flex its legal muscles and not only filed its trademark infringement complaint just before Christmas, but also filed a motion for expedited discovery and a preliminary injunction motion. Asus, which first displayed its tablet computer at a trade show last January, soon after received a cease and desist letter from Hasbro but then heard nothing for nearly a year. Caught off guard by the lawsuit, Asus trademark attorneys submitted court papers with the intention of slowing down the legal proceedings, which it says were filed abusively by Hasbro during the holiday season so as to thwart a response.

Asus Computer is arguing that Hasbro just filed to register the “Transformers Prime” trademark in April 2010, which the United States Patent and Trademark Office has yet to grant. Asus added that the toy manufacturer has yet to sell any merchandise under the unregistered trademark, which according to Hasbro will take place this March when the toys are completed.

Although being able to prove the likelihood of confusion argument will be challenging, Hasbro did cite some tech bloggers who used the launch of the new tablet computer as a reason to nostalgically reminisce about their childhood days of playing with Transformer robots. Asus will likely argue that its use of “transformer” is purely descriptive. After last year’s cease and desist letter, the computer company responded by telling Hasbro that the trademark didn’t cover Asus’ use of the word to demonstrate to consumers the functions of its tablet.

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