Lawyers for the toy company Hasbro are threatening to sue Asus over their new tablet computer.
The Asus Transformer won awards earlier in 2011, largely due to its innovative docking system which allowed a full-sized keyboard with trackpad to be attached. This effectively turned the Transformer into a fully-featured Android laptop.
But last week, Hasbro instructed lawyers to sue Asus for the use of the word Transformer. They claim it infringes the trademark for the classic robot toys.
It seems Hasbro have been prompted to act after a second alleged trademark infringement connected to the new model. The updated version of the tablet, the Asus Transformer Prime, is seemingly named after the leader of the Autobots, Optimus Prime. This puts paid to any suggestion that the use of the word ‘Transformer’ was a coincidence.
Experts say that Hasbro are unlikely to win the case over the Taiwanese electronics company. Businesses are normally allowed to use the same trading and product names, providing they operate in different industries. It’s unlikely that a court would consider a robot toy and a tablet computer as being in the same industry.
However, this could change if Hasbro decided to launch any electronics with the Transformer brand. This is not unheard of for toy companies who licence their products to movie makers. Many science fiction films, including The Matrix and the Dark Knight Batman series, have spawned lucrative tie-in deals with electronics manufacturers, particularly smartphones.
Hasbro say they have already asked Asus to stop using the words Transformer and Prime but they have refused. Hasbro are now seeking to block the shipment of the hugely anticipated Transformer Prime tablet computer in January. That would be a huge blow to Asus who are hoping their Android tablet will be the first to offer serious competition to the iPad 2. It would also be bad news for British high-street retailers who have taken more pre-orders for the Asus Transformer Prime than for any other Android tablet so far.