Did This Tablet Go Too Far?

Asus isn't playing games with its new Transformer Prime tablet, but that doesn't mean that the evolutionary device isn't garnering unwelcome attention from one particular toymaker.

Hasbro (NYSE: HAS  ) is calling in the legal eagles, filing a lawsuit in federal district court over the gadget's name that may be trampling all over its popular Transformers toy line.

Hasbro has a point. The words Transformer and Prime are generic on their own. When your power goes out as the result of a blown transformer, no one curses the Mr. Potato Head maker. Amazon.com (Nasdaq: AMZN  ) named its loyalty shopping program Prime without any fears of upsetting Hasbro.

However, the fact that Hasbro does have the Transformers line of toys that's experiencing a renaissance given the theatrical success -- and its main character just happens to be a transforming robot named Optimus Prime -- does breed confusion.

"No, this isn't a new Shia LaBeouf movie," I joked last month when Asus introduced its new tablet.

It also doesn't help that Asus' tablet has a transformation of its own, just as Optimus Prime goes from vehicle to robot. Transformer Prime is just another one of the many tablets based on Google's (Nasdaq: GOOG  ) popular Android operating system, but the detachable keyboard transforms it into a lightweight laptop on the fly.

The cherry on top: Hasbro rolled out a Transformers: Prime animated series last year.

This all seems to add up into a pretty compelling case for Hasbro, but the final verdict may rest on consumer perception. Do folks think that there's an actual connection between the toy franchise and the tablets? Can the state-of-the-art Asus device be considered a plaything?

The tablet space is confusing enough already. Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) continues to own this space. Tech sales tracker NPD Group reported that there were just 1.2 million non-iPad tablets sold in this country through the first 10 months of the year. However, that's changing this holiday season. Amazon already claims to have sold "millions" of its Kindle Fire this quarter. Asus is garnering critical praise for its multifaceted Transformer Prime.

Even if Asus will ultimately have to change the tablet's name, it's not playing games here.

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The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple, Amazon.com, and Google. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Apple, Amazon.com, Google, and Hasbro. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended creating a bull call spread position in Apple. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz calls them as he sees them. He does not own shares in any of the stocks in this story. Rick is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early.

Read/Post Comments (5) | Recommend This Article (4)

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Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On December 23, 2011, at 3:52 PM, DJDynamicNC wrote:

    I'm inherently skeptical of lawsuits like this - it's a company's job to brand its products and copyright law is already too expansive, in my opinion - but I think Hasbro has a pretty solid case here.

    On the other hand, this isn't a bad strategy for Asus. People remember connections and associations better than data points. And in a crowded tablet market, this just got the Transformer in the news dozens of times, all linked to a popular toy and movie franchise. Definitely could be worse. Asus might even write the legal expenses off as a marketing cost.

  • Report this Comment On December 23, 2011, at 4:23 PM, Hawmps wrote:

    <<On December 23, 2011, at 3:52 PM, DJDynamicNC wrote:

    On the other hand, this isn't a bad strategy for Asus. People remember connections and associations better than data points. And in a crowded tablet market, this just got the Transformer in the news dozens of times, all linked to a popular toy and movie franchise. Definitely could be worse. Asus might even write the legal expenses off as a marketing cost.>>

    Excelent comments. Definitely chock it up to marketing costs.

  • Report this Comment On December 26, 2011, at 8:48 AM, meeyatch69 wrote:

    I agree... this definitely sounds like a pretty smart strategy to either ride with a pre-established and popular moniker or get a ton of out of the gate pub for this tablet. It's a win either way and gives Asus a chance to highlight the specs of the tablet to a potentially new audience. Not bad.

  • Report this Comment On January 01, 2012, at 8:51 PM, lowmaple wrote:

    the tablet does transform but are they hurting hasbro? so should hasbro get money from them if asus changes the name?

  • Report this Comment On January 01, 2012, at 9:19 PM, jetski27 wrote:

    Hmm.. I Think that rather than beating each other with lightsabers, the companies should get together and help promote the tablet. This tablet is the Ipad2 real competition. I didnt associate the transformer prime with the Transformers Brand. I really want to get this tablet soon.

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