Update: California Court Deals Blow to Transformer Trademark Lawsuit

In an ongoing Transformer battle that involves neither Autobots nor Decepticons, toymaker Hasbro may be losing ground. A California court recently denied a request by the owner of the Transformers brand to block the sale of the Eee Pad “Transformer Prime” tablet computer made by electronics company Asus.

Hasbro has filed a trademark lawsuit seeking damages 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 or future products. Asus meanwhile contends that the use of the term “Transformer” is merely descriptive, noting that tablet computer is designed to change from a tablet computer into a laptop using a mobile docking station.

The court recently denied Hasbro’s request for a preliminary injunction, finding that Hasbro failed to establish a likelihood of success on the merits of its claims. The decision hinged on the court’s finding that there is no likelihood of confusion among consumers, the hardship on Asus to recall the tablets, and the apparent delay by Hasbro in asserting infringement (the company did not file suit until eights months after the first generation of the tablet was released.)

“There is nothing gimmicky about the Eee Pad Transformer or the Eee Pad Transformer Prime,” the judge wrote. He also specifically noted that the tablets actually do transform, seeming to agree with the defense raised by Asus.

Preliminary injunction rulings, while not dispositive of the case, can often provide valuable insight into how the court views the case. In this case, the denial of the preliminary injunction could foreshadow its ultimate dismissal. I will keep you updated as the case progresses.

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