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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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