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How long until the 1984 Transformer molds no longer held by Hasbro?


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#1 mignash

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Posted 15 April 2012 - 06:18 PM

Forgive me for not knowing, but I remember hearing that the actual designs for the a toy can only be held for so long from the patents Hasbro files in the 80s. They may own the characters of Prowl, or Starscream, how long until legally some other company can go and make a toy that has the same design as one of the 1984 Transformers LEGALLY in the USA (assuming the company makes them into original characters, with new names, and don't use any TF logos). Could someone legally make a toy that had the same physical design as Optimus in say... 20, 60 or 100 years after the patent?

See I was looking at talk like this:

http://law.freeadvic...nt_duration.htm

From that it would seem that the molds from 1984 would already by available to the public. So if someone were to produce a toy with a 1984 Diaclone mold, but in new colors, with a new name, and not having ANY Transformer trademarks on it (like a Autobot logo), would it be LEGAL?

If this were true, would companies making repro parts to Transformers over 20 years old be legal?

Edited by mignash, 15 April 2012 - 06:27 PM.


#2 ShinRa Inc

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Posted 15 April 2012 - 06:34 PM

I think anyone attempting to do that, assuming they didn't get stopped by Hasbro, would have problems with the various automobile/plane/whatever manufacturers. For the same reasons Hasbro no longer bases toys on real vehicles anymore.
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#3 mignash

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Posted 15 April 2012 - 06:40 PM

That's true about the licensed vehicles, but some of the toys over 20 years old are NOT based on real world vehicles... 21+ year old toys take use back to 1991, which iincludes pratically all of G1 except the Turbomasters. Could someone use the Jumpstarters, Shockwave, or the cassettes molds legally now? Or some of the later Cybertronian ones like the Headmasters, Pretenders, etc?

Edited by mignash, 15 April 2012 - 06:42 PM.


#4 Walky

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Posted 15 April 2012 - 06:51 PM

A patent filed before 1994 is protected for 17 years, but that can be extended by the company if paperwork is filled and approved.

That just protects the engineering of the toy itself, though. The likeness of the character is protected pretty much indefinitely, thanks to Disney's efforts to not ever lose the right to Mickey Mouse. Prowl will be free for anyone to use maybe sometime next century.

#5 Fishbug

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Posted 15 April 2012 - 07:04 PM

And by then, is anyone going to want a toy that isn't an actual sentient transforming robot?

"You mean you actually have to use your hands to make it a robot?"

#6 mignash

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Posted 15 April 2012 - 07:21 PM

QUOTE(Code of Walky @ Apr 15 2012, 07:51 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
A patent filed before 1994 is protected for 17 years, but that can be extended by the company if paperwork is filled and approved.

That just protects the engineering of the toy itself, though. The likeness of the character is protected pretty much indefinitely, thanks to Disney's efforts to not ever lose the right to Mickey Mouse. Prowl will be free for anyone to use maybe sometime next century.


Like I said though, if they didn't use the CHARACTER or any trademark symbols. For instance, let's make what we would see as a common knockoff: Someone makes a Topspin toy, paints it pink and white, and calls it "The Mighty Hopper King". No character from Hasbro, no likeness, no Autobot symbol, based on an expired patent, no vehicle mode that the car companies will sue about... technically a legal toy then (if incredibly silly)?

Edited by mignash, 15 April 2012 - 07:29 PM.


#7 Walky

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Posted 15 April 2012 - 07:31 PM

It still looks like a character that Hasbro is currently claiming ownership of, and who appears in comics that businesses pay license money to use. You can't knock off the Super Powers Batman toy, color him not like Batman, and legally sell him. You would have to wait for ownership of that likeness to fall into the public domain first, which won't be for a long long while.

#8 mignash

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Posted 15 April 2012 - 07:37 PM

The same mold in a different color still "looks like the character"?

#9 Spark

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Posted 15 April 2012 - 07:39 PM

QUOTE(mignash @ Apr 15 2012, 08:21 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
QUOTE(Code of Walky @ Apr 15 2012, 07:51 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
A patent filed before 1994 is protected for 17 years, but that can be extended by the company if paperwork is filled and approved.

That just protects the engineering of the toy itself, though. The likeness of the character is protected pretty much indefinitely, thanks to Disney's efforts to not ever lose the right to Mickey Mouse. Prowl will be free for anyone to use maybe sometime next century.


Like I said though, if they didn't use the CHARACTER or any trademark symbols. For instance, let's make what we would see as a common knockoff: Someone makes a Topspin toy, paints it pink and white, and calls it "The Mighty Hopper King". No character from Hasbro, no likeness, no Autobot symbol, based on an expired patent, no vehicle mode that the car companies will sue about... technically a legal toy then (if incredibly silly)?

I would point out that Hasbro sued a company into oblivion over doing exactly that in 1985, so I expect the same is probably true now, at least if the company is within their legal reach.
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#10 mignash

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Posted 15 April 2012 - 08:00 PM

In 1985 though the patents were still new. They are NOT now. I recall that case too, and it was filed based on PATENT violation right? Some company made fake Jumpstarters because they claimed that the Diaclone Attack Robot mold wasn't patented properly, so technically the design was in the public domain. The other toy company lost the case based on Hasbro owning the patent, not because they violated the IP of the Topspin character. So if they went back into production TODAY they would be legal, yes?

Edited by mignash, 15 April 2012 - 08:08 PM.


#11 Daytonus

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Posted 15 April 2012 - 08:01 PM

QUOTE(mignash @ Apr 15 2012, 08:37 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
The same mold in a different color still "looks like the character"?


That would have to be determined by the legal system, but the precedent probably favors the original owner.

Sure, some company could knock off the ENGINEERING before the character--e.g. a toy that transformers like Prowl but doesn't have his character-specific molding--but why would anyone want to do that?

#12 mignash

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Posted 15 April 2012 - 08:11 PM

On related note, did/does Hasbro have any legal ownership on the mold they never released or patented in the US, but Takara or Takara-Tomy released in Japan? Something like, for instance, the original Metalhawk?

#13 Destron D-69

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Posted 15 April 2012 - 08:11 PM

yeah from all the talk and text it seems like the best you could do would be get a few cheap things sold at a dollar store before Hasbro and Tomy ate your babies ...

despite what we may come to believe after being in the system, it is called the LEGAL SYSTEM because it was designed for people to do legal things... waiting around to circumvent a loophole ...

>_> doesn't seem to fit that definition

and yeah as others have asked, "why even bother?"

#14 Fortress Ironhold

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Posted 15 April 2012 - 10:06 PM

QUOTE(mignash @ Apr 15 2012, 08:00 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
In 1985 though the patents were still new. They are NOT now. I recall that case too, and it was filed based on PATENT violation right? Some company made fake Jumpstarters because they claimed that the Diaclone Attack Robot mold wasn't patented properly, so technically the design was in the public domain. The other toy company lost the case based on Hasbro owning the patent, not because they violated the IP of the Topspin character. So if they went back into production TODAY they would be legal, yes?


Actually, we had that discussion a few months back; Nevermore found the official rulings on the matter, and I translated them from legalese to basic English.


The gist of the matter was that certain figures didn't have copyright or patent information on them when they were first presented to the Japanese public, and so the bootleggers presumed that Takara had no legal claim on the figures. Thus, the bootleggers presumed that the figures had to instead be in the public domain.

The judge responded by noting that the bootleggers made the presumptions based on American IP law when they actually should have considered Japanese IP law. As the judge noted, although the figures may not have had clear markings, Takara otherwise did everything in their power to act as if they were protected. Furthermore, the legal arrangement between Takara and Hasbro was enough to where, even if the figures were public domain in Japan, Hasbro could still easily claim protection retroactively.

What's more, the bootleggers undercut their own claims by visibly attempting to alter the individual figures. Had the figures been the exact same as the ones first presented in Japan, then the company could have easily claimed ignorance. But since the figures had modifications made to the molds, that raised the prospect the company actually knew they were dealing in bootlegs and were attempting to circumvent this by claiming differentiation.
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#15 Fortress Ironhold

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Posted 15 April 2012 - 10:14 PM

QUOTE(Destron D-69 @ Apr 15 2012, 08:11 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
yeah from all the talk and text it seems like the best you could do would be get a few cheap things sold at a dollar store before Hasbro and Tomy ate your babies ...

despite what we may come to believe after being in the system, it is called the LEGAL SYSTEM because it was designed for people to do legal things... waiting around to circumvent a loophole ...

>_> doesn't seem to fit that definition

and yeah as others have asked, "why even bother?"


I think the best thing that people could hope for would be to have a figure with a similar transformation pattern to an existing figure.

For example, compare Hans-Cuff to First Aid.

With both figures (who, I might add, transform into white emergency vehicles), transformation occurs when the rear section is flipped over to form the lower legs and the sides of the vehicle mode are pulled out to become the arms.

However, that's where the similarities end. Instead, virtually everything else beyond color, theme, and transformation are completely different. In fact, there's even an extra step to First Aid's transformation.

Similarly, Rest-Q and Ratchet are both white ambulances of similar make and model, but the transformations are so wildly different that there's no comparison.

In these instances, it's all more-or-less kosher.

But making a knock-off Prowl, giving him new colors, and assigning him a different name? Ain't no way.
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#16 Destron D-69

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Posted 15 April 2012 - 10:40 PM

well yeah I get that... two entirely different toys, would be two entirely different toys.

I was going to suggest an example where you could make a tug boat robot that had the same transformation scheme as g1 optimus prime... you know the old legs back, arms in head swivel ...

and that would be cool... but then if you go and paint him red and blue, give him a prime head and have him pull a big grey boat with a blue stripe ....

>_> not so good.

its like we always seem to bring up in these threads - Hastakomy doesn't have a monopoly on "robot shape changers" but that also isn't the okay for IP theft.

#17 Nutjob R/T

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Posted 15 April 2012 - 10:46 PM

QUOTE(Code of Walky @ Apr 15 2012, 09:31 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
You can't knock off the Super Powers Batman toy, color him not like Batman, and legally sell him.



Poor example, Walky.

I think the only colour never used on a Batman toy is pink.
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#18 Dake

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Posted 16 April 2012 - 08:02 AM

QUOTE(Daytonus @ Apr 15 2012, 08:01 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
QUOTE(mignash @ Apr 15 2012, 08:37 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
The same mold in a different color still "looks like the character"?


That would have to be determined by the legal system, but the precedent probably favors the original owner.

Yeah, isn't there something about what a "reasonable person" could see in defense of patents and the like? If you set pink not-Topspin next to real Topspin, any reasonable person, TF-fan or not could see they were the same toy, just different colors.


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#19 mignash

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Posted 16 April 2012 - 11:09 AM

QUOTE(Dake @ Apr 16 2012, 09:02 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
QUOTE(Daytonus @ Apr 15 2012, 08:01 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
QUOTE(mignash @ Apr 15 2012, 08:37 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
The same mold in a different color still "looks like the character"?


That would have to be determined by the legal system, but the precedent probably favors the original owner.

Yeah, isn't there something about what a "reasonable person" could see in defense of patents and the like? If you set pink not-Topspin next to real Topspin, any reasonable person, TF-fan or not could see they were the same toy, just different colors.


Not same TOY, same CHARACTER. Same toy mold would be legal.

#20 Daytonus

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Posted 16 April 2012 - 11:12 AM

Yeah, so any reasonable person would see that it was the same character in different colors.

In any case, the only companies that would reasonably profit from this would be companies probably already in the business of bootlegging anyway. I still don't see the point.



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