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back to article Apple said to threaten legal action over Steve Jobs doll

If you're a Jobsian fanboi jonesing for the recently announced Steve Jobs action figure, we have some bad news for you: Apple doesn't want you to have one. So reports The Telegraph, which says that the Chinese action-figure maker In Icons has received a letter from Cupertino's lawyers threatening legal action should the 12-inch …

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Does apple own the rights to Job's estate?

Did they trademark his name? I don't see any Apple logo's on the doll. I'm confused. Are there any grounds here? Is it a special case for persons of high status or recognition within a company?

Hopefully my employer can't steal my posthumous likeness, just because I worked for them before death.

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Anonymous Coward

I guess Steve Jobs could have transferred the rights to his public image to Apple on his will, or maybe more likely it's actually the family suing - possibly via Apple's lawyers.

This source of this report is after all company in China so reports are never very precise. Without seeing the actual complaint it's hard to say what's going on.

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Devil

Grounds ?

The only grounds here are in the lawyer's coffee mug.

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Anonymous Coward

Someone owns the rights to Steve's likeness and I too would have thought it would be his family or those in control of his estate. Apple have much more expensive lawyers than anyone else so maybe his estate simply passed the matter through to them to handle?

You know that your image is entirely your property. If anyone takes your image or likeness tries to sell it without your permission, you can haul them into court. Are you listening too Facebook? We own our own likenesses!

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Actually

I'd think that accepting Facebook T&C that contained things like "you give us permission to use anything you post for our own evil purposes", then they would be one step closer to owning your likeness if you posted it.

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Joke

Perhaps they own a design patent on Jobs?

If so, this guys in trouble:

http://www.wantchinatimes.com/news-subclass-cnt.aspx?id=20110711000002&cid=1103

Obviously too late for Apples lawyers to get an injuction against his mother giving birth to him, but perhaps the court can grant one to stop him from breathing until he gets plastic surgery or the high court makes a decision.

Just change your face, not that big of a deal.

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ridiculous

He was an owner and employee of apple, not the other way around. Since he is dead he has no further relationship with apple. Case dismissed!

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Facepalm

Well of course...

... after all, this doll is copying the look and feel of the real Steve Jobs...!

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Anonymous Coward

Look and Feel

Copying the look of Steve Jobs sure. Surely though, the feel is a different matter. I can imagine the figurine would be cold, hard and plasticy whereas during life the real Steve Jobs would have been warm, soft and fleshy.

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Anonymous Coward

Surely you got that the wrong way round?

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Anonymous Coward

i belive you had it right firttime

"Surely though, the feel is a different matter. I can imagine the figurine would be cold, hard and plasticy "

yup, that's probably about right!!!

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Anonymous Coward

... after all, this doll is copying the look and feel of the real Steve Jobs...!

What would that be.. Plastic, no soul, empty head, no genitals

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Wouldn't be easy

In the US, Apple would most likely have to sue at the state level or make some quick phone calls to their congressional lackeys^W legislators to get some laws passed. As it stands only about 20 states recognize rights of publicity. In California it extends for 70 years after death and in Illinois it is 100 years. In the other 30 states, you would have to sue to find out what the judges think. As for the rest of the world, I can't imagine it would be much less murky.

Of course this assumes that Steve left his rights of publicity to Apple in order for them to even have standing in the case. Alternatively, Apple might play the valiant knight and be willing to back any case the family would choose to raise. PR wise, I don't see much of an upshot to the former option but who knows, Apple certainly has been keeping the lawyers of the world well fed of late so maybe they are only concerned with stimulating the legal economy.

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Anonymous Coward

Isn't this well known?

You can't sell items like this realistically depicting people without authorisation.

It's the same if you start selling e.g. Bob Marley t-shirts with his face on them, you'd quickly be told not to.

On the other hand I really doubt Apple is interested - at all - in making royalties from this, they just don't want people selling dolls of their founder.

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Boffin

Well known?

I think you might be conflating Steve Jobs' estate with Apple. Legally, his family have a right to his image, Apple do not, unless some very unusual arrangements were put in place.

GJC

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Anonymous Coward

It depends on your jurisdiction

In the UK there is an Act of Parliament that specifically restricts what you can do with images of Princess Diana, but in general you can do what you like with the images of dead people, as far as I know ... which isn't very far and I wouldn't be the slightest bit surprised if they've changed the law recently without telling me.

Incidentally, there was a case in which a US company that was selling images of Princess Diana was sued by the UK organisation that "owns" her image. The UK organisation lost, if I recall correctly. So you can sell images of dead people without authorisation in some cases, even in the US.

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AC @09:38

The UK company lost because it only "owns" Princess D's image in the UK. The US company was selling her images in the US where the UK company had no rights.

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Anonymous Coward

Please explain

Yes, but what I'd like to know is whether anyone "owns", or could "own", Princess D's image in the US, or whether it's a free-for-all over there (except California, perhaps).

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Trollface

It really just depends on the countries' laws doesn't it?

I'm sure that there is a country somewhere that has no laws with regards to "likenesses" of people, and if they aren't part of the WTO, short of having the state department setup a trade embargo against them, I don't think there is precious little Apple or anyone could do to stop it.

Imagine if it were Iran that was making the doll, do you think that Apple would go there to fight this? I bet not. Hell I bet companies in Iran frame "cease and desist" letters from U.S. attorneys, and mount them on the wall the way red-necks mount elk heads.

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Solution

Have it say "Apple are shit" when you pull a string and it becomes parody and protected under the constitution

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Thumb Up

I'd buy one of those

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Happy

They have two claims: Copyright infringment and patent

Seems Apple copyrighted Steve and I am not sure but they might have applied for a patent for him also. I don't think there is prior work of steve, but I know he has a sister.

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Prior art?

But couldn't one claim that he's a derivative work, courtesy of his parents?

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Happy

additional protection

does his face have round edges?

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As soon as it starts selling i'm getting on, my Android robot is going to do all sorts of things to him ;)

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well they've sold one then!

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Might not be the doll itself

I suspect their problem is with (one of) the accessories - the apple with a bite taken out of it. That is trademarked.

From the Telegraph article linked here:

"The action figure comes with a pair of black socks, some glasses, a leather belt, two apples (one with a bite taken out of it), a bar stool and a "One More Thing" backdrop."

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Joke

Didn't Snow White demonstrate prior usage of an apple with a bite missing?

Certainly Eve did.

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"One More Thing" backdrop? Did he steal his power point template from Peter Falk?

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Meh

Re: Didn't Snow White...

So what? Apple Computers sued Apple records for the name - and won, even though Apple records pre-dated Apple Computers. Everything is possible in the "alternative reality".

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@ Didn't Snow White...

From Wikipedia:

"In 1978, Apple Corps, the Beatles-founded holding company and owner of their record label, Apple Records, filed a lawsuit against Apple Computer for trademark infringement. The suit was settled in 1981 with an undisclosed amount being paid to Apple Corps. This amount had been estimated to be US$50–US$250 million, but was later revealed to be US$80,000.[1] As a condition of the settlement, Apple Computer agreed not to enter the music business, and Apple Corps agreed not to enter the computer business."

"Everything is possible in the "alternative reality." Including mixing up winners and losers. :o)

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Re Didn't Snow White...

"...Apple Computer agreed not to enter the music business..."

So, one wonders where they stand vis a vis iTiunes.

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IT Angle

Powerpoint?

Keynote shurely...

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Anonymous Coward

Playmobil™

What about a Playmobil™ version courtesy El Reg?

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Anonymous Coward

Sounds like the Princess Diana doll story all over again

where the Diana Memorial Fund pissed away all their money and lost.

Still this will be US law rather than UK law, so they will probably claim that Apple holds the Patent Rights on replicating Steve Jobs.

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Thumb Up

"The fund, which had clearly been badly advised, tried to copyright the image of a historical person [the Princess], which was absolute insanity. It is now suffering as a result of its own foolhardy actions."

Last year a spokesman for Franklin Mint insisted the fund had fought a "suicidal" legal action and should be held responsible for its "bad behaviour".

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/northamerica/usa/1473245/Diana-fund-faces-15m-US-lawsuit.html

http://www.news1130.com/news/world/article/172808--us-law-firm-settles-franklin-mint-dispute-over-princess-diana-memorabilia-for-25-million

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Devil

The real problem

Is that Apple wants a piece of the apple, err, pie, too. I'm pretty sure that if In Icon agrees to a very reasonable fee of, say, 75% of the income generated from toy sales then Apple will have no problem what so ever anymore.

Could make In Icons position even stronger as well when they let Apple deal with all the legal issues; "What's that? Your child ate one of the hands and died of poisoning, so now you hold us accountable? Didn't you read the 20 page license manifest before opening the box, as instructed on the box itself? It clearly says on page 18 paragraph 32, line 14 that 'we cannot be held responsible for damages occurred from consuming the doll'."

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Joke

It's all very well you saying that Apple would be happy if they just paid the 75% iApple tax, but you forgot that Apple also need to define what it can do...

Movable hands, and arms that can move too? Nope, sorry not allowed....

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Childcatcher

Do US State laws apply to Chinese toymakers?

Do Alabama abortion laws apply in New York? Can European or Asian countries legally import toys made in China, but which violate the laws of the State of California?**

To find out the answers to these and many more questions,*** stay tuned to el erg.

** "While Apple's copyright infringement claims are questionable, attorneys believe a Steve Jobs action figure released after his death violates the "right of publicity," which is a state law that protects one's image, voice, photograph, identity or signature from being used commercially without consent. Furthermore, California's Celebrity Rights Act in 1985 protects a celebrity's personality rights up to 70 years after their death."

***Are these the same lawyers who bought the trademark "iPad" from a company who did not own the trademark, but were just a subsidiary of the company who did?

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I see the problem

His head has rounded corners.

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THEY NEED TO PATENT IT

To avoid unlicensed copies.

Who the hello would buy one anyway,.or is this the ultimate fanbois accessory?

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Anonymous Coward

Hope their next toy is a LarsG voodoo doll. Would pay a good $1.49 for that, but only if you don't claim royalties.

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Anonymous Coward

Can't see the problem..

Just change the name, not that big of a deal.

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To 'G.I. Jobs'?

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But to what?

To the "WozCompanion™" action figurine?

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that made me spit my brew out lol

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Anonymous Coward

Hahaha

G. iJobs surely?

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Childcatcher

Where is Matt Bryant now...

to tell us if the trustee making payments to the Madoff victims should sue to recover royalties for the popular Madoff doll or whether the Madoff doll and the Jobs doll can not be compared?

Matt, of course, is the last word in comparisons here at el reg.

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Joke

Will there be a 7" version

nothing to see here

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Anonymous Coward

Surely there's a greater claim for New Balance against that doll than Apple have?

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