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Resin Moulds & Hasbro Design Patents

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Hi pony friends!

Quick question: I'm interested in getting into resin crafting, because I love things like custom Li'l Litters babies and custom Petite Ponies.  I've seen resin artists producing these for sale, and am interested in creating some of my own - sales, TBD! :)

However, my only concern is whether or not commercial reproduction of Hasbro's design violates any design patents?? Or, have their patents on these early 90s toys long since expired? 

I guess I'm hoping there may be a MLP fan here who is also a laywer :)

At least one person is already doing this (Clipper) so while I’m not personally sure, it would seem hasbro hasn’t been bothered enough by it to take action? Or perhaps removing the hasbro mark puts reproductions into a gray area because hasbro has always been fine with the customizing community, as far as I know.

Someone has been making full sized resin G1 customs for years and as far as I know, never ran into an issue.

I can think of a few folks who have reproduced accessories and such, too. I think it's one of those things where they turn a blind eye to it, as long as it stays small and doesn't get to the point where it would actually threaten Hasbro's toy sales... I'm no lawyer though so don't quote me on that x)

There are a LOT of third-party Transformers too, I don't think Hasbro have ever shut any of those guys down?

I am NOT a lawyer, or an expert on copyright law, but I once watched a video about this issue that involved bootleg Star Wars toys. The general theme of the video is that usually the toy manufacturers do have the rights to all forms of the toys, and could sue, but they tend to turn a mostly blind eye to fan works most of the time.  The general consensus is that  as long as the fans don’t cross certain boundaries, the toy manufacturers will leave things mostly alone since going after fans is costly, time consuming, and creates horrifically bad PR with their core customers.   

The most common boundaries that would make a manufacturer take notice are:
1) Creating something that “defiles” the brand - an example of this is when Hasbro went after a popular G4 website that was joking about…inappropriate touching of children. Hasbro didn’t want their brand associated with that, especially since it was popular enough to be a top hit when searching “My Little Pony” on google, and children and parents were seeing it. They also killed a Street Fighter style fighting game with G4 characters probably for the same reason.

2) Mass producing something close enough to the official brand, and in enough numbers to be a direct competitor to the official brand.  I think Clipper’s G1 retro line skirts this a bit, but as the ponies are G1, and they are going for a completely different market than the official ones in stores, Hasbro lets it slide.  Should Clipper start making toys from the current generation of MLP in direct competition to what Hasbro is currently making, odds are Hasbro would take notice.
The same is probably true of the people making replacement accessories.  Hasbro is currently not making anything similar, so they ignore it. However, if Hasbro decided one day to start making official replacement G1 Princess wands and Sea Pony shells, they’d probably shut down all those etsy sellers asap.

3) The person making the items doesn’t try to trademark their work, or attempt to assert a copyright claim on the manufacturer’s intellectual property.  The copyrights belong to the toy manufacturers, and trying to claim otherwise will force a reaction from the company’s lawyers.  Copyright holders must defend their copyrights or risk losing them, so this is an almost guaranteed way to trigger a reaction from the copyright owners.

So basically Hasbro owns My Little Pony in all its forms, but Hasbro is reluctant to try to stamp out every fan work out there due to the hassle(it’s like playing Whack-A-Mole), and the outrage it causes with its customers.  Hasbro may or may not have lost its specific copyrights on the original physical G1 moulds, but they still own the My Little Pony name, and everything using that name. So they can *potentially* come after anyone making and selling things using the My Little Pony name, but they generally don’t unless the copyright violations in question are more egregious than the average.  They still have the right to, though usually they start with a cease and desist letter instead of the full lawsuit for damages.


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