Transformers Collectors' Club gets mad about knock off toys

Last week, whoever runs the Transformers Collectors' Club Twitter account posted this:

It came out of nowhere and was apropos of nothing, so people began trying to figure out what they were talking about.

Confusing IP infringement with theft is, as one commenter said, "a gross oversimplification" - the Supreme Court found in 1985 that the two aren't the same. And while we'd like to give the TFCC the benefit of the doubt on this one, the fact that they kept referring to it as "theft" throughout the conversation makes that impossible.

They then linked to an article about Zippo lighters being counterfeited, which isn't quite the same situation: nobody seems to be making knockoffs of current TF product; it's all '80s molds and now-defunct lines, like Classics or Armada. Knockoff Zippos take sales away from the company, while knockoff TFs don't.

Companies make no money off the secondary market, so that comparison is rather tenuous.

Wait, so "not Ultra Magnus" is okay, but "not Heinrad" isn't? How about Explorer, who's clearly based on an old toy, but is still 100% original work? That's where this really starts to leak, especially since they'd previously insisted there was no grey area.

Oh really? Ahem:

At this point someone questioned whether Twitter's 140-character limit was conducive to a complicated discussion of this sort.

It's great the way they completely miss the point, yet still manage to play the martyr. And the thing is, ExVee was right: the Transformers Collectors' Club may be making a good point, but if they were, it got garbled by Twitter's short-form limitations.

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11 Responses to Transformers Collectors' Club gets mad about knock off toys

  1. Nameless says:

    Wow, what d!cks!

    If it's the iGear seekers they're getting their knickers in a twist about, it's their own fault - they had YEARS to meet the collectors demands. (Incidentally, Hasbro are already doing this again, making us wait for Soundwave, Wheeljack and Mirage in the DOTM line - with Mirage being a complete no-show so far)

    So far, my iGear seekers are holding up better than the Takara versions, with certain structural parts made from metal, not plastic, and are detailed with the sort of ingenuity regards kibble and parts fitting that MP Rodimus Prime was sorely lacking.

    If it's a certain KO website that is offering repros of G1 and classics, same thing goes, tbh - I've got a couple of KO's to make up certain holes in my TF collection - I don't care if my Shockwave and Dinobots are genuine, I'd rather not go double or treble the price for ageing, damaged originals that were not mine to begin with.

    This nonsense about moulds and licenses being lost over time (avoiding a re-issue, or 'Encore' release) is pure BS - it just sounds like they're rattled about other companies giving collectors what they want.

    I have a membership lined up to get Runabout, Runamuck and SG Drift in 2012, and they better have stock for ALL members - the reason some of these KOs are in existence are because of such elistist, snobby 'short production runs' that Hasbro are famous for - why don't they stop churning out Bumblebees and mix up their releases a little?

  2. Bob, the very sad Army Builder says:

    That's a very short-sighted view displayed there by the TCC Twitter dude.

    Nobody is taking money from Hasbro by doing toys that Hasbro would not produce.
    Yeah sure, maybe they could still produce them in the future and maybe they want to leave the option open - but we all know Hasbro too well to know they're just doing repaints of existing (recently released) stuff.
    Doing limited run toys in hommage to, say G1 or a comic property (HOS) that Hasbro did not touch, will not harm their business, ever.

    Also, I know from a lot of collectors that I talk to regularly that if, for example, Hasbro did a "Hearts of Steel" Optimus Prime, most if not all collectors would switch out the fan creation release with the official release. That is how they tick.

    So a so called "KO", or "IP stealing evil release" should rather be seen by Hasbro as an indicator of what the fans want and will spend money on.

  3. Greg W says:

    As readers and the blogger are well aware, this stuff is complicated and probably best sorted in tiers that I think most could agree on:

    1. KO of official product, like CHMS or KOToys versions of Botcon toys. This is probably the "worst" offender since it duplicates actual product rather than adding any artistry or intellectual property of the creator's own.

    2. Slight modification or improvement of official product. Example: IGear seekers, Faith Leader, the Jizaz Wheelie just released by X-Transbots.

    3. Takes pieces from official toys but making a new mold. IGear Ironhide and Ratchet (perhaps from Inferno mold); Igear Impactor (perhaps from Warpath mold)

    4. New designs based on intellectual property. PE Reflector, Igear minibots, FP Insects, Warbot, etc.

    5. Add-ons and enhancements. FP City Commander, Protector armor.

  4. yo go re says:

    I think I agree with exveebrawn: what TFCC is trying to say is right, but it needs more room to be said. I know I've bought some "Level 1" knockoffs when they appeared at Big Lots, but those were all Beast Wars II molds that Hasbro was never going to import. I bought them because the price was commensurate with the quality: I spent less than $10, so I get pieces falling off, missing action features, etc. I knew exactly what I was buying when I bought it.

    Greg: City Commander and Protector armor are still technically new designs based on IP, so they might fit into Level 4. Then Level 5 would be something completely innocuous, like that company that makes new weapons for MOTU Classics to use (which I suppose takes them out of the "knockoff" category altogether, come to think of it)...

  5. PrfktTear says:

    The argument does have some merit, but that was real bad form. I don't think Twitter is the most appropriate place to have this discussion. Way to make yourself look a fool and potentially alienate (read: piss off) fans.

    I don't see the harm in releases like the Ultra Magnus City Commander armor or even figures like "Hearts of Steel" Optimus Prime... figures that Hasbro has not, and most likely will not ever produce.

    Most of those offerings are fairly pricey, so they’re really more of a high-end specialty line geared towards hardcore TF collectors. Surely as mentioned above, those same collectors would in turn go out and buy the Hasbro and/or Takara release... For that matter you could make an argument that Takara Heinke releases are hurting Hasbro, but I think that’s a bit absurd.

    Last and certainly not least, if Hasbro wanted to, I bet they could squash these little operations out like a bug, but they’re haven’t. I’m not sure what their official stance is, but I’m sure they don’t approve. However for the time being it seems like they are willing to look the other way, at least for as long as it suits them.

    • yo go re says:

      I bet "as long as it suits them" is exactly three seconds longer than it takes for the first of these makers to announce a toy that duplicates something Hasbro has in the works. It's not like Hasbro's making a new Devastator any time soon, so what do they care if someone else makes one similar? But if it were some Deluxe-sized toy that matched what they were planning to release in Generations or whatever? The hammer would come down...

      • Soundwinder says:

        Not likely. Realistically, Hasbro is pretty much unaffected by 3rd party Transformers like City Commander, Munitioner, etc. Even if Hasbro was making its own version of these things, anyone obsessive enough to spend a hundred dollars on a third party version (which, by the way, wouldn't be a significant chunk of Hasbro's sales) would certainly spend the $20 for an official version as well.

        They have every right to dislike actual KOs, but the third party products really don't affect Hasbro (except for the enhancements, which if anything help sales).

        Now, Hasbro of course has the right to protect its IP, but I think that they realize that it's a mutually beneficial experience. It helps appease the fans, and going after the companies that honestly aren't negatively affecting them just paints them in a bad light. I think it's a shrewd decision to turn a blind eye to them.

  6. Sufi says:

    While I'm of the opinion that TFCC, as a licensee of Hasbro, has the right to complain about knock-offs and what-not, I have to agree that Twitter is not the best place to have a conducive conversation about it. That, and in the last few messages the TFCC respondent seems a bit... whiny. I really don't like that. Perhaps an opinion piece posted on the various Transformers fansites?

    Plus, in my experience the third party TFs tend to cater to hardcore fans with figures that a) are much too expensive for Hasbro to mass-produce (ala City Commander), b) tend to be flush with details or accessories Hasbro can't put in due to budgetary concerns (e.g. the IGear Combat Specialist) or c) represent a character much better than any official product in recent years (e.g. Warbot Defender being a triple-changer instead of a helicopter OR an armoured car, Explorer being a shuttlecraft as opposed to a repainted tank).

    I always figured Hasbro is well aware of these 3rd party groups but tolerates them because they know that these groups are often fan-run and they focus on figures and accessories that don't necessarily bite into Hasbro's profits. Plus, I sorta thought Hasbro hopes to actually recruit some of these guys (the way a lot of IDW artists started out as fanartists).

    I'd like to point out that in some cases, 3rd party stuff caused me to buy official Hasbro product. I would never have bought Classics Magnus (because, seriously, it's just Optimus painted white), but I gave in thanks to City Commander. I thought that the Energon/ROTF Combiners Superion and Bruticus were ugly and poorly designed, but the FanProject add-ons made them worthwhile enough for me to track them down. Even now, there's that Gold Scout kit that upgrades Henkei/Classics Bumblebee into Goldbug. I hate Bumblebee, but I love Goldbug. Hence, for the first time, I'm actually going to buy that mold. Which, I have to stress, I would never have bothered with if not for 3rd party stuff.

  7. Fries Against says:

    I always knew the guys running that club were snarky little dickbags.

  8. Henry says:

    I'm in two minds about this. On the one hand, their core message is a good one and if these third party companies want to do dull neo-G1 stuff, then they should really try to get the nod of approval from Hasbro, like Reprolabels. Nothing legally binding on Hasbro's part- any cut they take would not be worth it- but just something to take away the sting of IP theft. Or even better, the clearly talented folks at these companies could start creating their own designs from scratch after they make a bit of a reputation for themselves with obscure toy remake #67.

    On the other hand, if these companies drain away the demand for creatively sterile neo-G1 stuff from Hasbro itself, the more third party products the better. I would hate to see transformers become as isolated a fandom as MOTU. Got to have something to homage (Not recreate mind you) for the next milestone anniversary.

  9. James says:

    So you botcon scalpers have no problem buying up all the convention toys in bulk then ripping the fans off. but somehow it's deemed evil/wrong to buy 3rd party TF toys. What are you guys usa elected officials or something. I didn't think warped ways of thinking was a accepted pratice.

    Example: the Elected officials in America run around shutting down strip club,massage parlors & chasing hookers off the street. but it's okay for the elected officials to buy exsspensive hookers have them sent to their hotels & travel around the world with them. it's okay to deprive the hard working lower class/middle class working man his hookers but it's okay for those pencil pushing elected officials to have their hookers.

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