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Old 2011-04-12, 09:37 PM   #21
Cliffjumper
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Originally Posted by Warcry View Post
Speaking of...if Hasbro were really serious about putting a stop to the third-party stuff, would it really take lawsuits or Machiavellian schemes involving threats to online retailers? If they were really gung-ho, they could probably ask/bully places like TFW and Allspark to flat-out ban the discussion of third-party stuff entirely. If they threatened to pull the plug on the Q+As, exclusive information, 'leaks', etc. I imagine they'd get what they wanted pretty quick. And that would effectively kill the third-party sellers' ability to market their wares to enough customers to earn a profit.
Actually, it's worth considering here that the likes of Big Board and Other Big Board will actually willingly do as Hasbro say in the hopes it will get them on the radar and they can design convention redecos, get jobs with IDW or simply get spoken to by Aaron Archer. Hasbro would only have to ask, and there're brown-noses who'll basically declare 3rd Party stuff to be A Bad Thing, and shout down the opposition. You can see the strawman Shortpacked! strip now, can't you?
 
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Old 2011-04-12, 10:47 PM   #22
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I'm glad Taktom have woken up to this. If the third party market continued to grow, where would it end? It's only ultimately going to end up harming product development in the long run. I, too would like to see this, that or the other toy produced, and do find the Classics line something of an excercise in frustration, but I do recognize that Transformers these days are compromised as they have to sell to children, who are, lest we forget the primary consumers of these things. Alternators was a prime example of what happens when you devise a toyline soley for fans: it tanks.
 
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Old 2011-04-12, 11:11 PM   #23
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Originally Posted by Skyquake87 View Post
I'm glad Taktom have woken up to this. If the third party market continued to grow, where would it end? It's only ultimately going to end up harming product development in the long run. I, too would like to see this, that or the other toy produced, and do find the Classics line something of an excercise in frustration, but I do recognize that Transformers these days are compromised as they have to sell to children, who are, lest we forget the primary consumers of these things. Alternators was a prime example of what happens when you devise a toyline soley for fans: it tanks.
While I agree with your point that lines directed specifically at adult fans tend to sink - let's face it, they can only give us what they think we want - I think the 3rd-party upgrades do have their place; companies like FansProject did what any company does, they spotted a niche in the market and they seized the opportunity. Where there's demand for something, eventually someone's going to step up to answer that demand.

How many people are still waiting for an armour/trailer upgrade for Masterpiece Magnus? Same can't be said for Classics Magnus, can it? The problem that caused this situation to arise is that the two companies who produced the original toy/s, Hasbro and TakaraTomy, aren't answering the demand for accessories to go with or 'complete' those figures.

Granted, HasTak can't answer every demand, but there's not much stopping a toy-manufacturing giant like Hasbro from creating an armour upgrade for MP Magnus and aiming it at a collector's market that they do know exists. If it's so in-demand, why not answer the demand?

Really, what's stopping them for creating their own collector's line of limited-run accessories? If we're willing to pay through the nose to companies like FansProject for upgrades and accessories - and anyone who's bought one has proven that they are, given that it's for the right figure; G3 Trailer much? - then surely we'd be willing to do the same for an official upgrade kit or accessory, right?
 
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Old 2011-04-13, 07:02 AM   #24
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Budget constraints, I reckon. Making a whole new mold is expensive stuff, hence the amount of retools and redecoes. And I wager Hasbro has a quota of how many fan-specific homage new molds, how many fan-specific redecoes (like Skyjack, Countdown et al), how many new character new molds (Terradive, Tomahawk), how many for the new toyline, etc etc.

Hasbro must looove how the fans are lapping up the Classic Seeker repaints they keep throwing into the pool.

Besides, marketing accessories have never been successful. Stuff like Gundam and Zoids add-ons shelfwarm horribly here, and the market for things like Magnus armours or Optimus trailers would be considerably less compared to, say, a new Jazz or Starscream figure.

Bearing that in mind, though, Hasbro did make a fully-armoured Ultra Magnus toy... twice. Once is a faithful (if fugly) homage to G1 in the Titanium line, and the other is the Animated toy, which, at clearance costs considerably less than the FansProject set. Hasbro would consider these toys 'sufficient' to appease the fandom until they have the time/resources/budget to sneak in a proper trailer armour thing.

Because, honestly, I can't be the only one who thinks an armour covering a white Prime toy is crap, don't I?

And things like Springer, well, aren't they just waiting for the right time to release these major figures? Nevermind that Springer doesn't turn into anything resembling a realistic vehicle mode, if Hasbro burns through all the major characters in 2007 or 2009, who would they have left to release, say, now or after DOTM? They will be left with guys like Tailgate and Chop Shop that nobody but fans would care about.

They can't release, say, Springer, Hot Rod, Blurr and Kup all together, or else fans will get excited for two months or so, then forget about the line in general.

But yeah, I don't think Hasbro minds the upgrade kits much, it's the dozens of mass-produced Arcees and Reflectors and Cassetticons and GI Joe/Train/Tank Optimus Primes that would piss them off. Because it basically robs Hasbro of an opportunity to successfully release a proper homage to the public.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Warcry
More than that...if not for the popularity of the movies, Classics wouldn't exist, there wouldn't be any third-party toys to speak of, the Masterpiece line probably would have gone the way of Alternators and all of the things we take for granted now would be nothing but a pipe dream as we have the eleventh year of the Unicron Trilogy (or something else equally dire) inflicted on us. Whatever your opinion of the movies themselves, they are the only reason Transformers broke out of the doldrums of the late 90s and early 2000s.

When fanboys piss on the movie they're pissing on the only reason they've gotten any of the things that they're whining about wanting.
Aye.

If I were to be introduced to Transformers via an Unicron Trilogy cartoon or G1 or, hell, even Beast Wars, I won't even watch it. Silly kiddy robots! But the live-action movies, love them or hate them, are what put Transformers back on the spot. It's not that outdated, silly toyline-based cartoon with stupid plots, it's part of a proper franchise. Hasbro really won't have the incentive to please a bunch of geeky fans before the live-action movies. Heck, apart from stuff like Botcon, I doubt Hasbro knows the fandom exists!

Without the movies, TFs would slowly decay down and basically become another random brand like Power Rangers or Kamen Riders or Zorobots or whatever non-Gundam robot toy is on the market now.

And besides, the Movies >>>>> G1 cartoon. For ever.
 
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Old 2011-04-13, 11:05 AM   #25
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Exactly. Producing an Optimus with trailer or Magnus with armour outside of a major themed line (i.e. Movie lines, Unicron Trilogy, etc) isn't going to happen. And whilst you can argue that there is a demand for add on guff, how much of a demand is there actually? A very small one, I'd bet. I don't have an unlimited budget to spaff on Transformers (and good luck to you if you do), so I'lll happily sacrifice a trailer or whatever if it means I can get my hands on a particular character at a reasonable price (this latter point is probably why we've seen key characters released in different size classes over recent years - although I do wish the UK wouldn't get all the bloody repaints of these toys too!).

Takara did bow to 'fan demand' with the Masterpiece Prime Trailer set, but hedged their bets by packing it with the actual Prime figure - how many people would spend the 100 on just a trailer, not very exciting is it? You might say they should have done this in the first place, but that's a potentially very expensive gamble. The MP line is now something totally out of my price range now. MP Rodimus might be the figure fans deserve, but at 200? No thanks. That's a niche product right there!

I suppose it comes down to how realistic your expectations are. I'm in my 30s and understand that Transformers -even the Classics ones - aren't really designed with me in mind. They are toys and designed to be played with, not fawned over by collectors whom Hasbro / Taktom will never be able to please no matter what they do.

I'm not a fan of add on sets. Do you really need a Kup with Cygar? Really? Can you not use your imagination? Is it really that important? Short answer: no.
 
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Old 2011-04-13, 06:26 PM   #26
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Warcry
I think the major distinction is that Lego is just a type of building block, but Optimus Prime or Starscream are characters. Even after the patents on a figure's tooling expires, the character still isn't in the public domain. So even after the tooling for the original Prime toy isn't protected anymore, I'm not sure that other companies would be able to get away with selling their own versions of it -- they'd still be making a profit off of Prime's image, so to speak.
You could make your own truck/robot from scratch with many similarities and a similar colour scheme, provided there aren't trademark infringements. Copyright protects the expressive elements -- the face if not generic, any distinctive and creative moulded logos, etc.

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Originally Posted by Warcry
But it was designed to look like Springer and sold pretty much exclusively to people who think of it as Springer. I don't think it's any more legal than designing and selling your own toys of Spider-Man or Worf.
There are a variety of factors, but one difference is that the toys of said characters would bear a very close resemblance to existing produced art, simply because there's been so much of it made public by Marvel and Paramount (and their licensees) over the years.

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Originally Posted by Cliffjumper
fairly unique colour scheme and recognisable (and again, very unique) helicopter mode
Colour schemes have very weak protection unless as an additional factor on top of other very close similarities. Think tech companies that use red/yellow/blue/green, for instance.

City Commander's on far stickier ground, though.
 
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Old 2011-04-13, 06:58 PM   #27
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Originally Posted by Blackjack
Heck, apart from stuff like Botcon, I doubt Hasbro knows the fandom exists!
I don't know about that. Hasbro's always been pretty hands on with the fandom, at least since I've been in it. Especially when compared with say, Mattel, who seem to actively hate their adult fans. And it seems that over the course of Classics they've given us almost every major request we've had, plus Armada Hot Shot. They certainly cater to us more than I'd expect a major company to be able to do.
 
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Old 2011-04-13, 07:03 PM   #28
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Some of the third party stuff is pretty nifty but honestly, even having some of it - if Hasbro/Takara abruptly released comparable 'official' figures (admittedly unlikely) of Springer (for instance) or a trailer/armour upgrade for classics Rodimus or Ultra Magnus I would be quite tempted to 'trade up,' as it were.

Although I suspect that most collectors would not be so easily tempted and thus having third party releases does undercut the prospect of seeing official versions of the same figures/accessories somewhere down the line. For all that we do get, however, I think that Hasbro/Takara is incredibly responsive to fan cravings.

For a product line that is ostensibly a toy for children, we do get a lot of nods and revisions of characters that are going to be easily bypassed by the greater children's market.

It would be pretty cool if Hasbro/Takara did open up a little sub-company for themselves that was just dedicated to small run accessory kits for the existing figures, though. Not that you'd ever see that in stores in the 'real world,' but internet commerce could always pick up the marketing slack for them, I expect.

Still and all - Hasbro/Takara are there to make money on a large scale and if there is an insufficient market to support it, you can hardly expect them to cater to a vocal minority by releasing fun eye-candy for existing TFs.
 
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Old 2011-04-13, 07:39 PM   #29
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I suspect that, even if they're not the main concern for Takara, it'd be easiest to build up a court case against the accessory stuff. FP can't really claim head Kup or Rodimus Armour aren't infringing on Takara's stuff when they're made to plug onto it.
 
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Old 2011-04-13, 09:58 PM   #30
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Quote:
Originally Posted by EmFalcon View Post
For a product line that is ostensibly a toy for children, we do get a lot of nods and revisions of characters that are going to be easily bypassed by the greater children's market.
This could very well easily change in the near future. With Hasbro having their own channel, they could very easily put on old runs of any series they have the licence for. While I doubt it'll have a massive effect on the toy market, at least then some kids who don't read comics (or have a parent like me) might actually know who Kup is, or even Scourge.

As for the main topic, I think I hit the nail on the head in another thread. As long as the 3rd party people stay low and don't do massive runs or step on any toes (copying the MP Starscream mold, really guys?) they'd get left alone.
 
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Old 2011-04-16, 02:31 PM   #31
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Colour schemes have very weak protection unless as an additional factor on top of other very close similarities. Think tech companies that use red/yellow/blue/green, for instance.
Yes, in isolation. In combination with the head, the helicopter mode, the marketing via Transformers sites etc. it makes a pretty watertight case that they've ripped off Springer's design; you wouldn't need to be Brando on a million a day to nail that one down. Most, if not all, of these factors are pretty piffling in isolation, but bring 'em all together in one toy... a red torso-blue legs transforming robot is one thing. A red/blue transforming truck is one thing. A robot with a Prime-style head is one thing (especially seeing as the basic design is evolved from Gundam). A toy firmly aimed at Transformers collectors is one thing. Bring them all together and have a red/blue robot which turns into a truck cab with Prime's head aimed squarely at Transformers collectors and in a court of law you'd get turned into mincemeat.

Their best hope would be that the court would up-hold homage even though money is being charged. Or that they do the same they do with all the knock-off companies who do produce cheap and nasty Prime KOs that fit much of the above criteria and just don't bother, which I think for now is likely. Like I say, I think this is a diplomatic shot across the bows from HasTak saying "We do know what you're doing, you're not magically invisible, and we are prepared to take action if needs be".
 
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Old 2011-04-16, 08:38 PM   #32
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The irony is that the add-on kits, while more obviously infringing on copyrights on things like Ultra Magnus and Rodimus Prime, don't actually cost any business to Hasbro/Takara since a buyer needs the official figure to hook the bits onto. Standalone things like not-Springer are maybe more defensible, and yet they step on the toes more since they do potentially cost Has/Tak actual business if/when they choose to make a corresponding figure (compare Rumble and Frenzy to Rumble and Frenzy).

I really, really want this Shockwave and Devastator before the hammer comes down, though.
 
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Old 2011-04-16, 09:06 PM   #33
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The irony is that the add-on kits, while more obviously infringing on copyrights on things like Ultra Magnus and Rodimus Prime, don't actually cost any business to Hasbro/Takara since a buyer needs the official figure to hook the bits onto. Standalone things like not-Springer are maybe more defensible, and yet they step on the toes more since they do potentially cost Has/Tak actual business if/when they choose to make a corresponding figure (compare Rumble and Frenzy to Rumble and Frenzy).
Aye, but I think the problem is that if they have to do it, they have to blanket ban them - as Warcry says above, part of owning IP is defending infringements, and they get onto tricky ground if they do it too selectively. If they say, ban all non-add on products, someone will come up with some way of getting through a loophole - say, selling skellington figures and seperate add-on kits which turn them into characters.
 
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Old 2011-04-16, 09:26 PM   #34
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Originally Posted by Cliffjumper View Post
bring 'em all together in one toy... a red torso-blue legs transforming robot is one thing. A red/blue transforming truck is one thing. A robot with a Prime-style head is one thing (especially seeing as the basic design is evolved from Gundam). A toy firmly aimed at Transformers collectors is one thing. Bring them all together and have a red/blue robot which turns into a truck cab with Prime's head aimed squarely at Transformers collectors and in a court of law you'd get turned into mincemeat.
Only pre-supposing a close copy of the head, and/or other direct copying from existing moulds.

Imagine there were only two Prime toys in existence, stripped of Autobot symbols and named tags... the Laser Rod and the 2007 voyager-class one. The latter is substantively different to the former. It's a robot, it's a truck, there are some similar colours, fair difference on the expressive elements, etc.

For WD, "turns into a helicopter" or even "turns into a helicopter and some kind of land vehicle with a green/yellow colour scheme" isn't going to cut it. It's possible the face might, and the colours would lend some strength to that.

As toys, this head is distinct from 1 2 3 4. Similarities draw more from other media, which is where trademarks would make a stronger case and they've been wise not to run with a similar name or closely mimic packaging so that this wouldn't reasonably be confused with a HasTak product.

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Their best hope would be that the court would up-hold homage even though money is being charged.
The "charging for" angle comes into parody defences.
 
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Old 2011-04-16, 09:31 PM   #35
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Originally Posted by Cliffjumper View Post
If they say, ban all non-add on products, someone will come up with some way of getting through a loophole - say, selling skellington figures and seperate add-on kits which turn them into characters.
'Ch... yeah... and look how well HasTak have done with those...

It's a good idea in concept, but in practice, it FAILS like fail is going out of fashion.

My point being - yes, this post does have a point - that no-one buys any of the shellformer skeleton kits. The Prime and Bumblebee ones that came out as part of the first movie's line were aweful, and that pretty much killed the idea off. If a 3rd-party company came out with one of those things, it'd flop, just like HasTak's did. No-one would buy it.
 
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Old 2011-04-16, 10:05 PM   #36
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Yeh, that'd be a great interjection if it hadn't been a completely random theoretical example pulled out of thin air to illustrate a point, rather than a potential marketing direction. But never mind, eh?

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For WD, "turns into a helicopter" or even "turns into a helicopter and some kind of land vehicle with a green/yellow colour scheme" isn't going to cut it. It's possible the face might, and the colours would lend some strength to that.
Which is surely what I said - it's the combination of isolated minor points. With Warbot, it comes down to the fact it basically looks very close to Springer, and if it didn't no-one would buy it (otherwise all the people slobbering over FP toys would have filled their boots with SoC, Brave Gokin, etc.).

TBH, a case with Prime or - random example - Sideswipe would fare better because you get red trucks and cars, there's a finite amount of ways to get them from one place to another, a finite number of ways to map out the mechanics of the things (putting Takara's Heathtech Robinsonators boffins out of the pressurised cabin for a moment... oh dear, the one who came up with Wheeljack's undergone fatal decompression... nevermind).

Whereas Springer is something of a unique concept - Hasbro (well, bods employed by, let's keep this simple) made him up from scratch rather than seeing the world's worst helicopter and turning it into a robot. To the best of my knowledge, the scheme (Dancougar, maybe?) and modes remain unique to Springer; certainly the combination thereof does. And I would say the head is very close, and I would expect the character models also come under Hasbro's IP anyway - you'd be on shaky ground making an unlicensed figure of Xaaron, surely?

Quote:
The "charging for" angle comes into parody defences.
I think I'd be interesting to see how a court would come down on what is effectively a product rather than an art form... I see toy engineering as every bit of an art form as a comic, and more so than some twat with pubic hair coming out of his crown doing ironic pastiche songs, but it'd be interesting to see it was defined for a ~$80 toy. The trick could be that homages/parodies rarely compete with or preempt official product like the Cassette Twins have done; at least, few examples I can think of do. A JLA parody turning up in a Marvel comic aren't going to stop JLA fans buying JLA. It's difficult to draw non-ridiculous comparisons from media to product...
 
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Old 2011-04-17, 02:06 AM   #37
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Originally Posted by Cliffjumper View Post
Aye, but I think the problem is that if they have to do it, they have to blanket ban them - as Warcry says above, part of owning IP is defending infringements, and they get onto tricky ground if they do it too selectively. If they say, ban all non-add on products, someone will come up with some way of getting through a loophole - say, selling skellington figures and seperate add-on kits which turn them into characters.
Oh, I know - I'm just saying that some of these companies played with fire more than others. Fansproject is on shaky ground with not-Springer, but the one... IGear?... is almost a straight bootlegging operation with downsized MP Convoys and modified MP Starscreams sold as the Coneheads.

I would like to see a happy compromise come about in the form of some of these third-party companies simply acquiring some license to produce minor products on the up-and-up. But, as expensive as these small-run kits are now, I'm not sure if people would be willing to pay even more if the cost of licensing is passed on.

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Which is surely what I said - it's the combination of isolated minor points. With Warbot, it comes down to the fact it basically looks very close to Springer, and if it didn't no-one would buy it (otherwise all the people slobbering over FP toys would have filled their boots with SoC, Brave Gokin, etc.).
It would also depend on the sensibilities of the person evaluating such a case. You might get someone that can't tell the difference between Starscream one and Starscream two without a lengthy explanation of the differences, or you might get someone keen on robots who can glance at them and tell that they're two different toys altogether.

Not-Springer could be a laborious case of presenting coinciding details that, as a whole, represent copyright infringement or it could take someone two seconds to determine that it's obvious and that Fansproject owes Hasbro a truck of money. I'm the same way - I can tell robot toys apart, but I had a hard time telling apart my friend's Yorkshire Terriers, even though she assures me that they have a world of difference in their appearance.
 

Last edited by Clay; 2011-04-17 at 05:41 PM.
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Old 2011-04-17, 09:03 AM   #38
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Problem is, if the Warbot Defender was taken into court, all Hasbro needs to do is to take out any single TF fansite with news announcement of 'Warbot Defender, a homage to G1 Springer' or something like that. There's got to be two dozen separate announcements over the interweb...

Or do fan sites even count?
 
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Old 2011-04-17, 04:03 PM   #39
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I think they'd be very helpful when it comes to proving damages. Just print off a few dozen posts by people who are saying that they won't buy Hasbro's Rumble/Reflector/Wreck-Gar/whoever because they've already got a third-party version of the character. It's hard to deny that you're costing the company business (how much doesn't really matter IIRC, at least when it comes to punitive damages) by violating their IP when there are hundreds of people openly saying "I would have spent money on an official Hasbro product if I hadn't given it to these Chinese scofflaws first".

I doubt the advertising on fan sites would prove anything on its' own, but it would be one more thing added to the pile of evidence that the toy is supposed to be Springer. Certainly, it would be a lot harder to deny that you're not basing the toy on a Hasbro character when you're advertising the toy on Transformers websites and the threads are full of people going "Squee! Springer!" But if that's all you had, you'd probably lose.
 
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Old 2011-04-17, 07:32 PM   #40
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I think Takara are aiming more for the fear of legal action (or more to the point, the cost of it), to do the trick rather than it actually going to court. FP might win such a case at a pinch (would fans adopting these toys as Transformers actually be enough in court? Unless someone involved has specifically and publicly claimed that yes, that is Springer it might not. After all, how many of those same fans made various Go-Bots stand in for Optimus Prime or whoever as kids? Certainly it could become a fairly protracted case), but the financial risks of failure would make it not worth the risk.
 
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