You’d have to be either really young or really out of touch with pop culture not to spot the similarities in the name of the ASUS Eee Pad Transformer Prime and a certain group of autonomous robots. Transformers manufacturer Hasbro sure spotted it, and didn’t take the unofficial association lightly: they sued ASUS over the name, presumably taking offense at the similarity to Transformers mainstay Optimus Prime and similar fictional characters. The International Business Times reports that a US federal judge ruled that there was no possibility of consumers being confused by the name, and thus denied a sales injunction.
Trademark lawsuits get a little more leeway than patent lawsuits: basically, if a defendant can prove that their product would never be confused with the plaintiff’s by a reasonable customer, they can use whatever name they like. For example, you could sell Nike-branded medical supplies giving homage to the Greek goddess of the same name, with a reasonable expectation that no one would think you were selling sports equipment. The U.S. district judge seems to think that this established bit of civil law applies – after all, nobody would think that a 10-inch Android tablet would transform into a gigantic alien robot. Not that it wouldn’t be awesome.
Quoth the judge:
There is nothing gimmicky about the Eee Pad Transformer or the Eee Pad Transformer Prime, nor can it be said that there is any similarity in the use or function between Hasbro and Asus’s products.
ASUS is pretty much out of the woods, at least as far as the US is concerned; Hasbro’s motion was denied in full by the court. The civil case will go forward but is unlikely to result in a Hasbro victory. The toy maker could try to pursue the case in other worldwide jurisdictions, but odds would be overwhelming that the other courts would take the lead from the US and rule in a similar fashion. For our part, we think that Hasbro has missed a huge branding opportunity here – who wouldn’t want a chrome Autobot logo on their Android tablet? Oh well, I suppose they could always try going after LG’s ubiquitous Optimus smartphones…