Lest you forget that “Transformers” is a toy brand first and a movie franchise second, the trademarks for the series are all owned by Hasbro Inc. Now, the Transformers aren’t just battling for your teenager’s hard earned pocket cash they made scooping ice cream this summer (that’s NEXT summer). They now face off against new foe, IMG Universe, better known as the company that just bought Miss Universe from the Donald.
Hasbro has filed an opposition to the registration of the trademark THE FORMERS by IMG in a class covering realty television shows. One can only assumer this is a reality show for former Ms. Universe contestants but that is only my slightly educated guess. Hasbro states that because of the significant notoriety gained throughout the years since the Transformers property first hit the market in 1984, IMG’s registration of THE FORMERS mark in class 41 (which would be the class that the Transformers TV series falls into) would create a likelihood of confusion with their TRANSFORMERS mark. The notoriety, or, “fame and awareness” as Hasbro would put it, was significantly increased in 2007 after the release of the Transformers movie. Then again in 2009. And…again in 2011. And AGAIN in 2014. Hasbro states these movies generated over 1.3 billion dollars in profit in the US, not including the rest of the world. WHAT!? Yeah, 1.3 billion, only to increase with Michael Bays edgy and creative Transformers: The Last Knight, which will be the fifth and final installment to this movie franchise. The franchise now has been ongoing since my freshman year of high school and is now ending in my second year of law school for a whopping total of 10 years, way too long for a movie franchise if you ask me, but that’s an argument for another day.
Let’s get into Hasbro’s argument: first they state that their TRANSFORMERS marks are many, okay, then they state that their marks are “famous,” that’s fair, then…well, it gets a little more creative. Hasbro then goes into a very creative argument of word sight and phonetics. They state that THE FORMERS and TRANSFORMERS have approximately the same number of letters…really? It’s one letter off and both marks start with the letter “t”. Hasbro goes on to a phonetic breakdown of the words: they both have three syllables, two being the same (“FORM” and “ERS”), umm…okay, what about the first syllable Hasbro? Yeah, they claim “THE” and “TRANS” are “quite similar,” sorry I don’t buy it. Last but not least, Hasbro states that consumers are likely to think that THE FORMERS is shorthand for TRANSFORMERS, you know, because Transformers are so famous and reach the audience that Miss Universe is trying to capture.
Hasbro ends it off with a nice confusing little nugget: THE FORMERS would be offered through the same “channels of trade to the same general class of purchasers” to that of Hasbro’s TRANSFORMERS. What “channels” are they talking about exactly? I’m not entirely sure, TV, toys, who knows. But Hasbro says that IMG is barred from entering those channels because its “within [Hasbro’s] natural zone of expansion.” If you didn’t think Transformers were trying to take over the world before, they now set its focus on Ms. Universe pageants. Way more than meets the eye here.