I’m sure it seemed like a good idea in 1963 but the creator of G.I. Joe should have held out for more than $100,000. The 82 year old original creator of the G.I. Joe doll that has spawned numerous action figures, television shows and movies has sued to terminate the transfer of his copyright and regain rights to the iconic character.

GI Joe Original Prototype, Hasbro, 1964
In 1963, Stan Weston went to Hasbro, Hassenfeld Bros. Inc at the time, with a great idea. Weston had created a doll for boys in the form of a male military action figure with movable parts and changeable outfits. Weston pitched the idea that once a child purchased the figure they would make future purchases of different uniforms, emblems and weapons. Hasbro created the prototypes for the doll (seen herein) and both parties loved the idea and agreed to move forward. The parties then signed a contract setting forth the deal but over the years both sides have lost the important document. In 1964, G.I. Joe was first released and became a huge hit over the years. The action figures saw a rebirth in the 1980’s when promoted in connection with a popular cartoon and the movies have made hundreds of millions of dollars. With a third G.I. Joe movie planned, this property is certainly a cash cow for Hasbro. Weston claims that the copyright to the original creation is worth more than $100 million. Weston served a termination notice and is proactively suing for a declaration that the rights should be transferred back to him. Obviously, with the contracts missing, Weston knows there is going to be a dispute over whether this was a work-for-hire or transfer of rights. Under the Copyright Act, for works created prior to January 1, 1978 and other than work-for-hires, the original creator can terminate the grant of rights at any time during a period of five years beginning at the end of thirty-five years from the date of execution of the grant. But here is the big problem, was this a work-for-hire (was Weston paid to create the doll for Hasbro) or did Weston create the doll independently and then transfer of rights. Since Hasbro did create the prototypes for the doll there is definitely going to be a dispute over whether Weston was working for Hasbro at the time or if he just came to them with the copyright. This isn’t the first dispute over a toy/cartoon property from the 80’s. A similar dispute was decided in Mattel’s favor over copyrights concerning the *Masters of the Universe*. In that case, the original creator of some of the characters tried to cancel a transfer of copyright but the court held that the creations were work-for-hires and not subjection to cancellation. You can read more about the *Masters of the Universe* case [here](http://piratedthoughts.com/mattel-victorious-battle-ownership-masters-universe-comics-2/)*. * With many of the knowledgeable parties no longer with us and the contract having been lost it will be a tough case for Weston to prove as he has the burden to show that this was indeed a copyright transfer. This will be an interesting case to monitor going forward. ![YoJo](http://piratedthoughts.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/YoJo.png)