BoingBoing has reported a breaking public relations disaster for toy company Hasbro who is threatening the owner of a Nerf review blog over intellectual property infringement. Australian blogger Martyn Yang who runs Urban Taggers. Yang had reviewed the N-Strike Elite “Rampage” Blaster, an upcoming Nerf gun that was not officially released by purchasing one on taobao.com. Hasbro’s public relations team offered him a chance to review another unreleased Nerf toy if he sent them his contact address. Instead of sending him the promised review unit, Hasbro’s lawyers visited Yang and inquired about where he had received his review unit. Yang shared all information with Hasbro, but the toy-maker wasn’t satisfied and continued to put pressure on the blogger. Yang voluntarily removed the blog post.
At issue is Hasbro going after customers who bought unreleased products instead of making sure their manufacturing plant in China does not leak parts of its production on the grey market. Hasbro also stated that Yang’s article was an infringement about its intellectual property. Actually it’s not, well if you live in the United States of Canada. I’m not too familiar with the specifics of Australian intellectual property laws, but they should be much the same. Bloggers and reporters can write about unreleased products and not break anyone’s intellectual property. I can take a picture of a product and post it on a Website. The object being photographed may belong to a third party, but the article and the images belong to whoever created them, the blogger in this case.
What’s more annoying about this case is how Hasbro used deceptive tricks to go after a staunch supporter of their products instead of going after the plant manager and the Website selling the good illegally. Hasbro, attacking someone who promotes your products day in and day out is not smart. Yang probably makes very little money off his hobby blog but generates a lot of goodwill and exposure to Hasbro and Nerf for free.
Yang has not called for a boycott, but others have. Let’s hope Hasbro will do the right thing and get off Yang’s back.