Higher Prices for US Aircraft Kit Subjects?

Greetings all,
Michael Bass of Stevens International emailed out an interesting note to
inform us that companies like Boeing are seeking to turn US military
aircraft like P-51 Mustang and F-15 Eagle into trademarks so they can, in
turn, charge the hobby manufacturers licensing fees for making those
subjects into kits. This translates, of course, into higher kit prices for
all of us! Here's his note:
Greetings,
Attached is a copy of a letter we have constructed and sent to our local
congressman
formatting link
. It
appears all major kit makers in the USA are being harassed over the
licensing of military subjects as model kits. Aircraft companies have become
increasingly aggressive and threatening in the last year, and for those who
stock and/or import kits, if the kits are not licensed, you can expect
upcoming problems. We all need to do a lot of PR work on this, or we will
soon be paying increased costs for planes, tanks, ships and more.
We have spoken to two different trademark attorneys as well as numerous USA
model kit makers, and the answers are unanimous: these companies can attempt
to require licenses and royalties to the extent no one stops them or
contests it in court. For example already Boeing has registered P-51
Mustang and AV8B Harrier, and they are now beginning to require licenses to
make these subjects, even if the tooling is decades old. We intend to place
articles in trade and business magazines on this, as well as contacting our
local papers. If you can participate in your local area, do so. Any
questions once you read the attached, let me know.
Best regards,
Mike
Reply to
Michael Benolkin
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I think this is illegal...not really sure, but if the hobby industry chose to fight such in the US courts, I believe they would win.
From what I understand, goods designed and manufactured using public government funds are not available to the contracted company for trademark or copyright - the public owns them because the public bought them. I've often been told that this is what allows many different manufactuers other than Colt to produce and sell the 1911 model automatic pistol (or parts for it) under thier own company name, for example.
Processes or technology developed by the contracting company may be patented and licensed, but the end product is public property.
I think...
Reply to
Rufus
My Dad told me a long time ago that whenever a group of people get together and do something for fun, another group will come along and find a way to control it and make a buck on it. After the first one cash's in, it's only a matter of time before the flood gates open. I had already experienced this early on so I knew he was right and I figured out his grey hair was well earned. I have seen this happen with every hobby or past time in which I have ever gotten involved. I'm getting resigned to the idea that the defense contractors are going to have it their way and modeller's will be the ones holding the bill. The one's that are probably going to be crushed are the custom resin shops.
Does anyone know or have an opinion on whether their claims to the naming rights are strengthened when the government's nomenclature specifically identifies a company as THE manufacturer. The FM-2 Wildcat version for example from Eastern. A kit manufacturer can skirt the issue of using Eastern or GM in identifying their kit, but you can't avoid using the FM-2 designation to let your customers know precisely what subtype they are getting. If they are able to take alphanumeric designations hostage, I suppose Resin and Photoetched parts for the "Late-war type manufactured by a subdivision of the world's largest automobile company" could be squuezed into the title bar.
I've updated my Dad's pearl of wisdom for the more terse modern age, if I have kids some day.
"Greedy people suck"
WmB
To reply, get the HECK out of there snipped-for-privacy@earthlink.net
Reply to
WmB
This is not really new. Almost 20 years ago, "Fine Scale Modeler" did an article on this very subject. Ironically, Boeing was the "example" used in that article as well.
Reply to
Greg Heilers
I think that FSM article was from around 91 or 92. The arguement Boeing was using at that time was that if little Johnny swallowed the prop from a B-29 kit, the parents could sue Boeing! Personally, I can't see that happening, even with people suing McDonalds for hot drinks or whatever.
Of course, the notion that plastic kits are good PR for whatever company and/or military instiution seems to have gotten lost these days. Back in the 60s Boeing used to help the likes of Airfix out gratis with information and reference - until some weasel said "hey, you could be making money from this" and it all changed.
Reply to
Jonathan M
I think Little Johnny's parents would sue the kit manufacturer and B***ng is FOS. Who are they going to sue if Little Johnny choked on the foot of a model Captian Kirk?
Ms. Roddenberry? Paramount? Wm Shatner? Priceline.com?
I think the answer is to structure the laws to provide incentive for lawyers to sue each other directly. Offer something like a Powerball mulitplier, the plaintiff receives n-times the nominal judgement amount awarded if the defendant is a lawyer. While the predatory lawyers are bleeding their ranks the rest of us can amble on thru life.... including the decent lawyers.
WmB
To reply, get the HECK out of there snipped-for-privacy@earthlink.net
Reply to
WmB
It's just the pot calling the kettle ... IMO, if anyone is setting the standards on pricing it's Stevens Int. They import those 100 $ + kits from Trumpeter in China, why do they cost as much as kits from Japan ? Everything else from China is dirt cheap ...
Erik Wauters, Belgium
Reply to
Erik Wauters
It would seem the basic reason for this was that the Union Pacific Railroad -- like CSX and several others -- just won a settlement against Lionel and Athearn for use of their corporate logos.
Note the Tamiya Willys MB kit now also has to bear copyright markings for the "Jeep"name too.
Ah, lawyers, always find a way to ruin somebody's day.
Cookie Sewell
Reply to
AMPSOne
Which also goes to my arguement - the designation "FM-2", "UH-1", "F/A-18", etc. is actually a governmentally assigned contract designation for the design. I think that's what keeps those from being trademarked or copyrighted. The contract number/designation is public record, and therefore public property AFAIK.
Another example is one I personally encountered while working for GE. I came in one day and informed my boss that I had heard on the radio that the the Gov was going to make GE turn over the blueprints to the GE-F404 engine to Pratt & Whitney because they wanted a strategic second source for the engine. My boss informed me that this wasn't legally possible. A month went by, and my boss came back to me and asked exactly where I had heard this...because it was appearently true, and GE legal was looking into it and how to stop it if they could. GE lost the arguement and Pratt was selected as second source for production of the GE-F404, though in the long run they ended up only manufacturing some spare parts assemblies - exaust nozzles being one ready example - and not whole engines.
Again, as I understand things, this is all because the design was bought and paid for with public tax dollars and is therefore sole property of the US Government (and the US tax payers). The Gov can do anything it wishes as to sourcing because it owns the basic design - it bought and paid for it - not the contracting company. The contracting company is then usually (but certainly not always - as in the case of the GE-F404 and the FM-2) retained to manufacture the item it designed (at yet another contractual request) on behalf of the Gov. In this light the company niether "owns" the design, nor the contract.
All of this is entirely different from say, a car company or a railroad - private product, produced with private sector funds. Boeing could certainly claim rights and license fees against the Boeing name and image of say, a 747, but not an F/A-18. As least this is/was the law as I understood it as an indusrty insider as of the 80's-90's. If things have changed it would be news to me. I think this is a case of corporate America trying to take advantage of a sector of consumers which it feels will not fight back.
Remember the kid that sued Testors over the price increase on thier paints back in the 70's?..and won..
Reply to
Rufus
Apples and oranges. That was contested on the basis of Nixon's price controls.
Reply to
Al Superczynski
The difference IMO is that they are a private company litigating concerning a private product. Military assets are owned by the tax payer...I can't see any way of claiming "F/A-whatever" as "proprietary".
Reply to
Rufus
Some of the fallout of these actions have already hit the hobby.
You'll notice that few kit boxes carry the manufacturer's name. For example, you usually won't see "Lockheed Martin F-16" just "F-16" on a kit box. Company logos are also protected by trademark and can be licensed. Since the designation "F-16" is assigned by the U.S. Government (and implicitly paid for by U.S. taxpayer money), it can't be trademarked or copyrighted. However, certain U.S. Govt. logos CAN be copyrighted. For example, you need permission to use and reproduce the CIA's logo.
I believe that model manufacturers had a problem in the '80s with NASCAR kits and the reproduction and use of the massive amount of advertising that appeared on NASCAR racers. I also believe that NASCAR worked out an agreement with car sponsors so that model manufacturers would not have to pay outrageous licensing fees to make the decal sheet.
There is also current talk in the model train community about the Union Pacific Railroad protecting all of it's trademarks even extending (or so i've heard) to the color of their engines and cars. This would force any use of Union Pacific designs, logos, etc. to reqwuire payment of a licensing fee. This move is interpreted as Union Pacific's desparate attempt to generate revenue in any way possible.
Personally, I wouldn't worry about it. The revenue stream from model kit licensing has to be an insignificant amount for a company like Boeing and if we can't build Boeing airliner models, well that just leaves the market wide open to Airbus. Hey! Maybe Boeing is attempting to run the airliner model industry the same way they seem to be running their airliner sales! ;^)
Martin
Reply to
Martin
Point was that you CAN fight City Hall...not to just lay back and accept it.
Reply to
Rufus
I've heard the same about F1 kits, too.
Reply to
Rufus
Rule number 1: those with money (or attorneys on payroll) will always try to do whatever they can to make more money.
Rule number 2: if you can't afford an attorney to contest overreaching, the Rule #1 guys have rights and you do not.
Rule number 3: ecomonics is everything. Even if you can afford an attorney, how much is this really going to affect you or anyone else? In this case, what are we looking at? 25 cents more a kit? 50 cents? A whole dollar? The way kits are marketed, with substantial variation in price at the retail level, it might be completely imperceptible. Now, it might rankle you to have to pay Boeing for something it didn't earn, but that's coming to be the American way, and you might want to get used to it. It's pretty clear the Republican party would just as soon abolish all taxes on unearned income, so it must be morally superior to make money this way as compared to actually wage-slaving. Look on the bright side--the more of these names are trademarked, the more kits are going to rise in price on the retail side, and this will make your stash worth more on eBay. Of course, Boeing might start trolling eBay...
Mark Schynert
Reply to
Mark Schynert
In theory, Disney could sue people who use the military unit badges they designed for the US and other nations during WW2. This includes the swooping tiger they created for the AVG "Flying Tigers" (which was modified by the 23rd FG and subsequently the 14th AF). I saw this on the side of one of Hasbro's Transformers toys (and it was probably used in the G.I. Joe toy line too) and wondered how much in royalties Hasbro should be paying Disney.
Stephen "FPilot" Bierce/IPMS #35922 {Sig Quotes Removed on Request}
Reply to
Stephen "FPilot" Bierce
Stevens is based in New Jersey. They probably need the money to pay for their insurance bills. ;)
Bill Banaszak, MFE
Reply to
Mad-Modeller
Also, Boeing is sitting on about half of the aviation business in this country. One of these days we'll hear that they or Lockheed-Martin have bought out the other. Is there much left after that? The result will be a monopoly. It galls me that a company that never had anything to do with a design is trying to milk it for money. Losing that order to Airbus must have really hurt.
Bill Banaszak, MFE
Reply to
Mad-Modeller
Actually Disney can't sue over the AVG logo, the AVG can as Walt himself gave the logo and all rights to the AVG.
Stephen FPilot Bierce wrote:
Reply to
Ron
The way around it is simplicity itself...go to NARA, get the unclassified plans of the original, use the EXACT nomenclature on the plans and no company can touch you. Why? Simple again, you got plans from the government of a government owned "item" that is in the public domain. Note-this does not always apply to photos and/or films, some of the collection at NARA is in fact copyrighted to the original photographer and the copyrights on the images are still in force.
Reply to
Ron

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