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 (http://www.cybermodeler.com/hobby/bass_letter.shtml ). 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
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Michael Benolkin wrote:

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...
--
- Rufus


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WmB wrote:

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..
--
- Rufus


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Apples and oranges. That was contested on the basis of Nixon's price controls.
--
Al Superczynski, MFE, IPMS/USA #3795, continuous since 1968

My "From" address is munged - click "Reply To" to respond via email.
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Al Superczynski wrote:

Point was that you CAN fight City Hall...not to just lay back and accept it.
--
- Rufus


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[stuff snipped]

As a general principle, just because it's on public record doesn't mean it's neccessarily public property.

This is incorrect. It depends on the nature of the contract vehicle which was used to procure the hardware. Sometimes the government owns the design, and sometimes it doesn't. Sometimes it doesn't even have to own the design to be able to get a second manufacturer for it - it depends on the legalities of the contract language, and especially in wartime the legalities are often set to the side.
Nowdays with the price of aircraft getting so high, it is more common for the government to give up all rights to the property - the contractor owns the design, even though the design wouldn't exist except for the government's need for it. Basically the government functions as the sole user, and the contract language is written in such a manner that the government gives up all rights. This contracting language may also include giving the marketing rights to the aircraft's official name to the contractor. Many large companies will not even bid on a government project if they can't retain rights - the costs are too high.
Along with design and manufacturing rights, the contractor will in all probability also retain rights to the full maintenance and documentation set, even though it is published as an official DOD publication. More and more (especially USAF) manuals are being published with copyright notices because they consist in part or in whole of information that is copyrighted and owned by various contractors. This is a big change from previous years, where most official documentation was copyright-free.
Right now the only way to be sure of what rights the manufacturer has is to look up the contracts to see what was negotiated with the government, and also you need to check patents, trademarks, and copyrights.

Depends on the contract language. The company which did the original design for the government may legally own it, but still be forced by the contract language to share the design with other companies if the government wants them to do it. Another variant is the government providing a government design to the contractor. There's yet another variant where the government came up with the technology and licenses it for manufacture for a licensing fee, i.e. a company can design something incorporating government technology but it has to pay the government for its use.

Things have changed in the last 10 years. The government has changed the way it does business, and contractors have changed their operations also. You can no longer safely assume that because it is a product contracted for and used by Uncle Sugar that it's not trademarked or is copyright/royalty-free.
John Hairell ( snipped-for-privacy@yahoo.com)
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> Michael Bass of Stevens International emailed out an interesting note to > inform us .....
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
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Erik Wauters wrote:

Stevens is based in New Jersey. They probably need the money to pay for their insurance bills. ;)
Bill Banaszak, MFE
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Michael Benolkin wrote:

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.
--

Greg Heilers
Registered Linux user #328317 - SlackWare 9.1
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snipped-for-privacy@earthNOSPAMlink.net wrote:

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.
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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
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AMPSOne wrote:

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".
--
- Rufus


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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
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Hi Mark:
This is a very interesting point. I have never looked at the issue of unearned income being morally superior or less so then earned income. This is one of the more profound questions I have seen recently in RMS.
I do not believe the Republicans frame the question in such moral terms. They pursue this direction for greed alone. We flip flop over the morality question because never in human history has so much wealth existed as in America today. All of us will be dead in 80 years or so. The moral question is, who gets all that wealth in 2084?
The liberals argue that in order to maintain a dynamic and thriving culture each generation of people must start from the bottom and battle their way up the ladder of financial security. Kids will fight and claw for high SAT scores to get into that prestigious university where they will take their studies seriously.
The end result will be folks like John Edwards who float to the top of the public pecking order, from out of nowhere, and that such a person will better preserve American prosperity and dominance.
The conservatives must believe that in order to motivate people to work hard, right now in this life, they must be promised that any wealth they generate will perpetuate to their offspring. Now my personal experience does not bear this out. I created my software business to accomplish something in life to be remembered for, and certainly not to put my kids and grandchildren on easy street for their entire lives. My drive for success was internally motivated, and the tax code had nothing to do with it.
To our regret, a typical product of the conservative's thinking is GWB himself. He gets into Yale without the grades or test scores, coasts through as a C student, acts like a snob to all around him the entire time, learns to be contemptuous to all people he encounters who are go getters (professors, scientists, ROTC members, even guys who master the trumpet and play in the marching band) and continues on in life "failing forward" in every endeavor he undertakes.
I say we cannot afford another generation of GWB clones. They will certainly destroy the American empire in the next century, through shear incompetence, hubris and laziness.
...../V
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Vess Irvine wrote:

Incompetence, Hubris and laziness! Sounds like a good description of Bill Clinton. And a number of your remarks would also fit Mr. Kerry as well. In the Viet-Nam era Bill Clinton thumbed his ass at the system and John kerry played it.
                            Bill Shuey
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Come on guys...stop feeding the trolls! So...what kits have you all done lately? Revell 1/144 F-15 Bicentennial and (for giggles) Starfix(!) Me109 (Found in a Dollar store for...yes...one dollar) in Japanese evaluation markings for me :-
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matchbox wimpy for fun. isn't there a decent 1/48 out there?
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e wrote:

None that I know of in your price range. You'll just have to enjoy that one. :)
Bill Banaszak, MFE
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