Apple Threatens Chinese Toy Manufacturer With Legal Action Over Steve Jobs Action Figure

Apple Threatens Chinese Toy Manufacturer With Legal Action Over Steve Jobs Action Figure

I’d have put my house and children on Apple suing the Chinese toy manufacturer which produces the incredibly realistic Steve Jobs action figure we reported on earlier this week. And just as expected, it’s threatening to do just that.

In Icon has reportedly received a letter from Apple’s legal team which states it must stop producing and selling the 12-inch $99 figure — which sports Steve’s iconic black turtleneck, blue jeans and white sneakers — immediately, or face legal action. Unfortunately for In Icon, it has no intention of quitting.The Telegraph reports that Apple isn’t happy with the figure’s likeness to its co-founder and former CEO, which the Cupertino company claims it has the rights to. It told In Icon “any toy that resembles the technology company’s logo, person’s name, appearance or likeness of its products is a criminal offense.”

But In Icon boss Tandy Cheung isn’t fazed by the threat, and believes his company is doing no wrong. He previously stated that Apple could “do anything they like,” and that his company “will not stop, we already started production.” Cheung’s lawyers in Hong Kong have reportedly advised him that he is not violating Apple’s intellectual property:

Steve Jobs is not an actor, he’s just a celebrity… There is no copyright protection for a normal person. Steve Jobs is not a product… so I don’t think Apple has the copyright of him.

With sales likely to stop at some point, The Next Web reports that the figures are fetching in excess of $135 on eBay.

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  • ddevito

    I dunno about anyone else, but i sure do want one

  • Robert Glover

    I want one too.  If Apple was smart they’d license it to them and sell ‘em!!

  • mike_key

    Why am I not surprised that Apple claims rights to the likeness of Steve Jobs? Usually that’s left to an estate and living relatives. But it makes total sense, that Jobs probably made Apple his estate trustee to protect his name, likeness and everything else after his death. 

    Maybe Apple will be like Scientology in 20 years??

  • ali_plus

    I second that… Not for Apple, but for Steve.

  • Cindon83

    I am actually waiting for the Steve Jobs with the Kung Fu grip 

  • cassandralite

    The pertinent case law, I think, is Lugosi v Universal.  Bela Lugosi’s
    son, a lawyer, sued Universal Studios decades ago and established a dead
    celebrity’s right to have his image exploited only by authorized
    license.

    If indeed Steve left that to Apple instead of keeping it with his family, your comment about Scientology may be right on the mark.  The cult of Steve is already creepy enough. 

  • mike_key

    Nice find. I’m very curious to know how much of “Steve Jobs” has in fact been left to Apple as the authorized licensee.

  • cassandralite

    When I was a reporter 20 years ago, I covered a civil case that still makes me smile: The heirs of Larry, Curly, Shemp, and Curly Joe were suing the heir of Moe for hoarding Three Stooges licensing profits.  Attorney for the plaintiffs…Bela Lugosi Jr. 

    I followed a defense witness into the hallway after she’d suffered a particularly withering cross examination.  She hadn’t known who the tall, imposing, gray-haired lawyer was till I told her.  “Oh,” she said, “now I understand why I went brain dead.”

  • MacAdvisor

    California has rather generous image protection laws, but those would belong to Steve’s estate, not Apple. I don’t see how Apple has standing to enforce any rights in Steve’s image. Steve’s will hasn’t been made public, so we don’t know who inherited such rights, but they likely went to his widow, not Apple. 

  • Steve Pender

    Copyright, and IP law in general boil down to restrictions on all other humans as to what information they can use. Our government, as originally conceived, was supposed to only protect inalienable rights, not grant some people power to restrict other people’s actions that don’t directly harm them. Intellectual property limits our inalienable right to use information we acquire (visual) and implement it to better our lives. Stealing physical matter owned by someone else is theft. Visually identifying an arrangement of matter and creating another is NOT theft. Theft only applies to matter, not information.

  • Randy William Kennedy

    So, by this logic, Abraham Lincoln should sue the US government for every cent.

  • Randy William Kennedy

    Sorry the US Supreme Court disagrees with you. Intellectual property is protected in this day and age, and a person’s likeness for commercial use is also protected.

  • Ronald Stepp

    Unless they actually use a copyrighted logo of Apple, Apple doesn’t have a leg to stand on.

  • cassandralite

    I suspect Mr. Pender’s job doesn’t involve creating original works of art or literature.

  • Ronald Stepp

    I want Steve Jobs with the Woz grip.

  • Ronald Stepp

    I want Steve Jobs with the Woz grip.

  • ken147

    why should he sue for every…ohhhh I see what you did there :D

  • Steve Pender

    There already are laws protecting intellectual property. Claiming a product is made by Gucci when it was really made in a downtown sweatshop is *fraud*. If someone steals your art or literature and sells it as their own work, that is fraud. In this case, a doll of a famous person is made. Nobody loses. No theft, nor fraud. If they claimed they were made by Apple and put the Apple logo, that’s fraud. Most IP is an overreach of what is publicly available information, and functions to slow human technological progress by limiting people’s ability to perpetuate great ideas. Many times, something is patented but it’s an idea whose time had come and was inevitable given the trend towards higher efficiency and lower cost. Every invention is a manipulation of pre-existing inventions and processes. Multi-touch gestures are one such inevitability, and I think it absurd to be patentable. Amazon now has a patent on 1-click shopping. Completely ridiculous.

  • Steve Norris

    While the marketing of a Steve Jobs figure might be seen as controversial, it is even more controversial to offer a refund and then not even reply to the customer….They took the money quick enough…

About the author

Killian BellKillian Bell is a staff writer based in the U.K. He has an interest in all things tech and also covers Android over at CultofAndroid.com. You can follow him on Twitter via @killianbell.

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