Call me naive, but I just assumed that when Asus showed off a device called the Transformer Prime, they had some sort of deal to license or at least provide some kind of royalty to the Transformers franchise. Apparently not, as Hasbro has just filed a lawsuit alleging that Asus is infringing on the Transformers trademark.
Now, if the device were just called the Transformer, I think I would come down on Asus’ side here. After all, transform is a common word and although it may recall to mind certain memories from the 80s (and, to a lesser extent, the last few years), it is just a word and it also describes the transforming capacity of the device. But then they had to go and call it the Prime. What’s next, Soundwave speakers? A Bumblebee netbook?
No doubt Asus will try to excuse themselves by saying that both Transformer and Prime are common words that describe the device in question, which exists in a market totally unrelated to that of Hasbro’s toys and media. I don’t think that anyone will buy that, though. “Transformer Prime” is almost certainly a deliberate riff on Optimus Prime. And while Hasbro doesn’t make computers, Transformers games and accessories do exist for PCs and a judge is likely to agree that the whole thing is pretty blatant anyway.
What will happen? Hasbro is asking for damages and an injunction against sales of the product until they work this out. Asus would be wise to cop to the mistake, pay off Hasbro, and license if it can. Although the tablet hasn’t been a big seller, Asus has been pushing the brand pretty hard and will have to weigh saving it against paying what’s due.