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Asus Can Keep Selling Tablets Using "Transformer" Label

A federal judge has ruled in favor of Asus in its battle with Hasbro over the use of the "Transformer" label, allowing the company to continue selling tablets using the robotic name. Hasbro filed a lawsuit against Asus late last year, claiming that the use of "Transformer" was trademark infringement, and causes consumer confusion even though the tablet doesn't convert into a truck or a bright yellow Mustang.

In the lawsuit, Hasbro said that it contacted Asus about the original Transformer tablet sometime around its release, requesting that the company not use the Transformer name. But according to the lawsuit, "Asus refused to comply." The lawsuit also points to December 2011 ads promoting the Transformer Prime which use imagery that "closely resembles imagery used in Transformers movies and video games, in particular evoking the Transformers home planet of Cybertron."

Another problem Hasbro pointed out was that the Transformers toy decal has been used on products like USB storage drives, desktop optical mice, skins for laptops, speaker heads and iPod docks. That said, the branding doesn't strictly reside with consumer toys, but electronic products as well. It's possible that consumers would think the Asus tablets would be connected to the popular brand via those specific products.

"In the third film, an Autobot character known as “Brains” disguised itself as a Lenovo ThinkPad Edge Plus laptop," read the Hasbro complaint. "Hasbro developed the 'Transformers Prime' animated television series, which began airing in approximately November 2010. The series focuses on the life and story of the Optimus Prime character. 'Prime' was added to the 'Transformers' mark in the program’s name to emphasize this focus. Thus far, the series has received several Emmy nominations and awards and has been aired in 170 countries."

Hasbro sued Asus for trademark infringement, unfair competition, and trademark dilution. But the court didn't see any connection between the popular toy line and the Asus tablets. "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," the court ruled.

The judge also said Asus has a stronger case because the use of the term "Transformer" was an accurate description of its transforming tablet given that it morphs into a laptop by adding an optional keyboard dock. Even more, Hasbro simply waited too long to bring legal action, and was not entitled to a preliminary injunction. For Hasbro that's bad news, as the toy maker plans to launch a "Transformer Prime" product line sometime this month.