Once upon a time there was a toy maker called Hasbro who worked in a tumble down shop making tiny weapons of mass distraction for small boys to exorcise their inner demons by re-enacting comic book fights between robots.
Business was doing rather well for the small toymaker and he never had to worry about making a real son, like all the other toymakers in fairy stories, because he had film deals starring Megan Fox under his belt.
If any crickets popped up on his kitchen table he would have his life sized model of an Autobot turn into a truck and run it over.
After all, the toymaker was onto something. His tiny robots had no working parts and he did not need to worry about things like CPUs or anything else which could not be powered by batteries.
And Hasboro named his toys Transformers because they transformed his bank account and meant that he never had to make puppets whose noses grew long when they lied.
Meanwhile, far, far away, where the sun first shines on a brand new day, was a computer maker called Asus. Unlike Hasbro he worried a lot about CPUs and was not at all interested in toys. He made computers for those who liked the letter E above all other letters in the alphabet.
One day he created an EEE tablet and he decided to call it the Transformer. After all, tabets were supposed to transform everything.
But when Hasbro heard of Asus’ computer he was red with anger and did call up the finest laywer in the land.
“I want to sue Asus for stealing the Transformer name for his Eee Pad Transformer tablets, this is even worse than when that Wolf blew down my door and took my pork chops,” he said.
The lawyer was not so certain. After all the Asus Transformer was not known to turn into a sports car or a jet fighter and the only thing it could do which was not tablet related was to be used to hit crickets when they showed up in Asus’ workshop
“But look,” spluttered Hasbro. “They added the word “Prime” on the Eee Pad Transformer 2 and everyone knows that Transformers: Prime is my lucrative television spin off. Kids will be confused. They will think they are watching their favourite robot on telly and in fact they will be looking at Google.”
“Optimus Prime is the leader of the Autobots, he is not a computer,” Hasbro wailed. “Look, their marketing uses imagery that closely resembles imagery used in Transformers movies and video games, in particular evoking the home planet of Cybertron, batteries not included.”
And so it came to pass that on the night before Christmas, Hasbro is now suing Asus for trademark infringement, unfair competition, and trademark dilution. It has also asked the court to stop Asus from using the Transformer name in its current and future products, and seeks monetary compensation for damages.
It did not end happily ever after, because trademark disputes never do.