IF YOU THINK THAT ALL KIDS WANT THESE DAYS IS A WII, A NINTENDO DS
or the latest PlayStation, then a series of recent lawsuits may make you
Wham-O Inc., the manufacturer of such iconic toys as the Hula Hoop,
Frisbee and Super Ball, says in a recent lawsuit that its products are so
valuable that a rival is out to destroy the company.
In lawsuits filed from 2006 to 2008, Wham-O claims Manley Toys—aka
Toy Quest, aka SLB Toys USA—violated its trademarks and patents on
toys like the Frisbee and Super Ball. It also claims that Manley bribed a
Wham-O research and development executive to steal trade secrets, marketing strategies and toy designs for Wham-O’s future product lines—
then hired the former employee after she gave Wham-O’s confidential
material to Manley.
Wham-O has, thus far, been awarded more than $8 million in damages
and attorney fees against Manley/Toy Quest, but that has not stopped
Last year Manley took the highly unusual step of filing four separate
petitions to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to cancel three of
Wham-O’s most famous trademark registrations: Slip ’n Slide, Frisbee
and Hula Hoop. It also filed a notice of opposition to a pending Wham-O
application for a Super Ball trademark, says New York City lawyer Parker
Bagley, who represents Emeryville, Calif.-based Wham-O.
What’s behind the rivalry? Perhaps an
attempt on the part of Manley to add
Wham-O’s inventory to its own
Manley may best be known
for Tekno the Robotic Puppy,
a best-seller introduced in
2000. The toy helped propel
sales to $500 million by
2006. It also had a hit in
2003 with its Banzai Falls
Bagley suspects that
Manley’s attempts to have
Wham-O trademarks declared
generic are a thinly veiled play
for the company. Manley first of-
fered to buy Wham-O in 2006
and its offers were rejected,
Bagley says. “If Wham-O is
stripped of its trademarks, the
value of the company goes
down, making it easier to buy
it on the cheap,” he says.
Manley Toys principal Brian
Dubinsky declined ABA Journal
requests for an interview via his
attorney, Tim Reuben of Reuben
Raucher & Blum in Los Angeles.
But the generic card is as tricky as a Hula
Hoop to spin. “The law is loath to find iconic products generic, because
that is like penalizing a company for being so successful its brand name
is everywhere,” says Washington, D.C., IP lawyer Mark Sommers of
Finnegan, Henderson, Farabow, Garrett & Dunner.
called the greatest
generation, but for
some World War II
veterans the military hasn’t been all
that great about recognizing them.
As many of them
reach old age, they
want the recognition
they are due. And
thanks to a retired
lawyer from Elberton, Ga., many are
finally getting it.
Aston, a World
War II Army Air
Corps vet, has
helped 63 of his fellow
veterans obtain overdue
medals. He’s also begun helping
Vietnam War vets. “We get to thinking about, ‘Well, I should have had
this or that,’ ” he says. “You want to
clean up and get the record straight.”
About nine years ago, Aston wanted
to set the record straight for himself.
He felt he deserved a Distinguished
Flying Cross for a particular mission
and began navigating the military
channels to get it. Once word spread
about his success, he had a steady
stream of vets asking for his assistance.
Obtaining a medal is largely a documentary process, he says. He must
prove his clients’ gallantry and exposure to harm before a review board.
Aston says the review board almost
uniformly rejects all petitions, but an
appeals process is available and he
does whatever it takes to help his
comrades get what they deserve.
In one instance he was able to find
a 65-year-old interview from the BBC
to support his client’s claim for a
Distinguished Service Cross.
“I enjoy [helping them] immensely,” says Aston, who was also a belated
recipient of a Silver Star, the nation’s
third-highest medal for combat gallantry. “What I enjoy most is the
thank yous and the gratitude.
They are so happy about it.” —J.S.C.