We've learned from Variety today of a suit that was filed by Hasbro against DC Comics over the use of Bumblebee. Hasbro is accusing DC of trademark infringement based on at least one toy in the DC Super Hero Girls line of the DC hero character Bumblebee. Hasbro succeeded in late 2015 in registering a trademark on the name Bumblebee in the by now familiar field of toy action figures, vehicles, and robots convertible into other forms. The suit claims the possibility of causing brand confusion and/or being deceptive to consumers, as is fairly standard in this type of proceeding. Read on for more info!
The realm of trademark law is utterly absurd, so we're not going to go over the elements of this in too much detail. Hasbro has a position of strength due to having successfully registered a trademark on Bumblebee within this toys category almost two years ago, which either went unchallenged or defeated any challenges leveled at the time. This is not the first Bumblebee toy produced by a licensee of DC Comics. By 2004 one had been made for the Teen Titans line. This was a time when Hasbro had not been actively using Bumblebee as a trademark in toys for nearly a decade, and that use went unchallenged. Things are a little different today. With the movie firmly centered around Bumblebee coming late next year, and with it a toyline sure to be relying on that critical character more than ever, it's going to look extra important to Hasbro and their lawyers to shore up any vulnerability they can before it might be able to be turned back on them and exploited.
The most likely outcome of this situation is a settlement between Hasbro and DC that would likely involve some monetary compensation and an agreement going forward that DC's character will need to be marketed under a different name for any future releases through their toy manufacturing partners so that Hasbro is satisfied that it is distinct enough from their face-of-the-brand character.
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