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China Toys Apple Idle Technology

Apple Threatens Steve Jobs Doll Maker With Lawsuit 314

Posted by samzenpus
from the no-doll-for-you dept.
redletterdave writes "Apple has allegedly threatened to sue Chinese company 'In Icons' over its eerily realistic 12-inch action figure of Steve Jobs, the company's late founder and CEO. The 1:6 scale model, which was said to be distributed by DiD Corp. in late February, comes with the clothes and accessories popularized by Jobs, such as the black faux turtleneck, blue jeans and sneakers. The figurine is packaged in a box that looks like Walter Isaacson's 'Steve Jobs' biography cover, and also comes with a 'One More Thing...' backdrop, as well as two red apples, including one with a bite in it. To make it extra creepy, the doll's realistic head sculpt features Jobs' famous unblinking stare. Apple reportedly wrote 'In Icons', telling the Chinese manufacturer that any toy that resembles Apple's logo or products, or Job's name or appearance, is a 'criminal offense.' Attorneys believe a Steve Jobs action figure released after his death violates the 'right of publicity,' which is a state law that protects one's image, voice, photograph, identity or signature from being used commercially without consent. Furthermore, California's Celebrity Rights Act in 1985 protects a celebrity's personality rights up to 70 years after their death."
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Apple Threatens Steve Jobs Doll Maker With Lawsuit

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  • by Lexx Greatrex (1160847) * on Thursday January 05, 2012 @11:17PM (#38606204) Homepage Journal
    Personally I think it will make a good addition to the sequel to Team America World Police.
  • by grasshoppa (657393) <skennedy@nOspam.tpno-co.org> on Thursday January 05, 2012 @11:20PM (#38606220) Homepage

    That's a bit strange, no? You'd think Job's family would be the one filing, not Apple, unless they own his personality rights. Which would be kinda creepy, if you think about it.

    • by rubycodez (864176) on Thursday January 05, 2012 @11:24PM (#38606244)
      you didn't know? Steve was just a droid running the iI app
    • by halo1982 (679554) * on Thursday January 05, 2012 @11:25PM (#38606252) Homepage Journal

      That's a bit strange, no? You'd think Job's family would be the one filing, not Apple, unless they own his personality rights. Which would be kinda creepy, if you think about it.

      It's got to be either a) Apple is doing this at the request of his family/estate or b) Steve Jobs gave his personality rights to Apple...which while creepy is not all that far fetched considering how he micromanaged everything to death (no pun intended).

      • Who the f*** grants rights to "personality"?

        • by jesseck (942036) on Friday January 06, 2012 @12:01AM (#38606496)

          Who the f*** grants rights to "personality"?

          Steve Jobs did. Hell, he / his company sued at least "likeness doll" maker while he was alive... that set the precedent.

          • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 06, 2012 @01:35AM (#38606926)

            From the article:

            While Apple's copyright infringement claims are questionable, attorneys believe a Steve Jobs action figure released after his death violates the "right of publicity," which is a state law that protects one's image, voice, photograph, identity or signature from being used commercially without consent. Furthermore, California's Celebrity Rights Act in 1985 protects a celebrity's personality rights up to 70 years after their death.

            "[Jobs's estate] has every right to enforce this," said Lawrence Townsend, an attorney with IP firm Owen, Wickersham and Erickson, based in San Francisco. "I expect there will be a lawsuit to follow."

            Currently, there is no successor-in-interest claim for Steve Jobs in California's special filing registry. However, a claim for "Steve Jobs" or "Steven Paul Jobs" can be filed and registered at any time by Jobs's estate.

            • by tragedy (27079)

              Presumably this State law will only apply to sales of this doll in California. So if it's sold with a disclaimer: "not for sale in California" and they refuse to ship there, shouldn't it be in the clear?

        • by CheerfulMacFanboy (1900788) on Friday January 06, 2012 @05:51AM (#38607858) Journal

          Who the f*** grants rights to "personality"?

          The law. ""Personality rights" is a common or casual reference to the proper term of art "Right of Publicity". The Right of Publicity can be defined simply as the right of an individual to control the commercial use of his or her name, image, likeness or other unequivocal aspects of one's identity. It is generally considered a property right as opposed to a personal right, and as such, the validity of the Right of Publicity can survive the death of the individual (to varying degrees depending on the jurisdiction). In the United States, the Right of Publicity is a state law-based right, as opposed to federal, and recognition of the right can vary from state to state." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Personality_rights [wikipedia.org]

      • by jandersen (462034) on Friday January 06, 2012 @04:43AM (#38607634)

        I can imagine a third possiblity: The Chinese company have contacted Apple, asking them to sue them for a share in the proceeds - knowing full well that whatever the judgement will be, it won't make any difference for their ability to sell their product, and it is great publicity; sales are going straight to orbit.

        What do you mean, I'm cynical? I am a very sensitive and thoughtful individual ;-)

    • by Chicken_Kickers (1062164) on Friday January 06, 2012 @03:42AM (#38607412)
      Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image of Steve, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for i the JOBS thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; iExodus 20:4-6 (SJV)
    • by Zemran (3101)

      Has anyone else noticed that their is a "jobs" menu at the top of this page? Expect another law suit soon...

    • That's a bit strange, no? You'd think Job's family would be the one filing, not Apple, unless they own his personality rights. Which would be kinda creepy, if you think about it.

      Well, it doesn't once you consider that every single bit of information about this comes from the guy who wants to sell his puppets for $99 each - $135 on eBay after he released the information.

  • Why would they sue, do they have the rights on the likeness? I thought that would apply only to living persons. Incidentally, does apple also hold a Jobs trademark? That's quite gross in my book, akin to the way Communist parties in Eastern Europe used to keep the mummies of their leaders for the subjects to bow to. I can almost believe the conspiracy theories that they timed the release of the last iphone with the death of the Dear Leader.
    • Why would they sue, do they have the rights on the likeness? I thought that would apply only to living persons.

      I know that not reading the article is par for the course, but not reading the summary?

      Furthermore, California's Celebrity Rights Act in 1985 protects a celebrity's personality rights up to 70 years after their death.

      • by siddesu (698447) on Thursday January 05, 2012 @11:39PM (#38606334)

        The summary doesn't say anything about why Apple is doing this, and neither is TFA from my cursory read through. As far as I understand the matter, it is a family affair, and it is really weird and highly unusual that they would not hire a law firm to sue, but have Apple do it instead.

        The criminal threats are also mildly surprising, and the way Apple is clinging to Jobs is indeed sort of sick. As are the people who might want to buy a figure like this one.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by ScrewMaster (602015)

          As are the people who might want to buy a figure like this one.

          Personally, I have no interest in anything that creepy, but given that Apple is being such a legal dick about this (and many other things recently) I'd buy one on principle.
          BR And then I'd stash it away, unopened, until I retire and then I'd put it on E-Bay.

          • by andydread (758754) on Friday January 06, 2012 @01:25AM (#38606870)
            Personally I don't find it creepy at all. I find it incredibly realistic. I don't think I have ever seen a doll in my lifetime that is a realistic looking as this one. There is no mistaking Steve Jobs face and stare etc on this doll. I am not a fan of Jobs but would purchase one of these in a heartbeat just because of the realism of the face.
        • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

          by Ixokai (443555)

          I can't fathom how you would find it weird.

          For one, Steve was deeply private about his personal life. I know a lot of people who didn't even know he had children. He kept his image and his job separate from his family and his home.

          He cared about Apple deeply; it was more then just a job. Apple was the face and engine of what he envisioned. I would be shocked and offended if Apple did not seek to protect his image and interests even after his death-- granted, with the consent of his wife (and though the arti

      • by j35ter (895427) on Friday January 06, 2012 @12:19AM (#38606602)
        it is a Chinese company. They sooooooo dont give a sh** about California law. Oh, and count the rest of the world in as well :)
      • by rtb61 (674572) on Friday January 06, 2012 @12:38AM (#38606686) Homepage

        Which is rather pointless as it is a state law not a federal law, in both cases it is state not federal law. Basically the manufacturers can tell Apple to go get knotted and leave Apple to pursue retailers in the affected US states. US federal laws don't apply in China and obviously US state laws are complete and utterly meaningless, as of course US states can not enter into treaties with other countries to enforce laws across international boundaries. So manufacturer and sell and deliver my mail order in the affected states, in the rest of the world, thumb their noses at Apple Inc. Besides "Think Different" Einstein billboards for Apple. So maybe Apple can complain if the dolls are blue and sport IBM logos, otherwise their history of theft pretty much leaves them in the cold.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Furthermore, California's Celebrity Rights Act in 1985 protects a celebrity's personality rights up to 70 years after their death.

        How constitutional is this, given that we do not (yet) have a two-tier justice system? Either everyone's personality rights are "protected" or no one's. Unless we do have First Class and Second Class citiziens, of course.

        • How constitutional is this, given that we do not (yet) have a two-tier justice system? Either everyone's personality rights are "protected" or no one's. Unless we do have First Class and Second Class citiziens, of course.

          It is quite likely that as a not-so-famous citizen you have many more rights. If a movie gets filmed on the street and you happen to be in the scene, they have to find you and get your permission or that scene cannot be shown.

    • by LostCluster (625375) * on Thursday January 05, 2012 @11:57PM (#38606464)

      They're using CA's law that says Jobs' estate owns his image for 75 years after death, the problem is, how do they enforce CA law if the dolls never leave China?

  • Apple (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 05, 2012 @11:26PM (#38606258)

    The one thing Apple is better at than designing closed computers is suing people.

  • I want one! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by cadeon (977561)

    I could do so many things with one of those...

  • by renegadesx (977007) on Thursday January 05, 2012 @11:26PM (#38606266)
    So what law are they violating? I am talking about China not the US. A Chinese company does not have to answer squat to Apple nor the US legal system. They could make a doll with a penis on the head of Obama and the US Government couldn't touch them. Selling these dolls in the US is another matter (the Steve Jobs ones), but those that want them could simply import directly from China.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Theaetetus (590071)

      So what law are they violating?
      ... Selling these dolls in the US is another matter (the Steve Jobs ones), but those that want them could simply import directly from China.

      It's likely they're selling or offering the dolls for sale in California, at least via a website. That counts as sufficient contact to place them under California law for those transactions.

      • by renegadesx (977007) on Thursday January 05, 2012 @11:52PM (#38606426)
        If they own a website in the US: valid If they offer to ship to California but the site is hosted in China: not valid.
        • by Issarlk (1429361)
          Nothing that SOPA can't fix! That website will probably disapear from the USA intranet soon, iFans rejoice.
      • by Khyber (864651)

        Too bad China seems to forget about likeness parodies, which are protected forms of speech in the USA

        This is how we have Obama dolls in my store, with the doll stroking his dick (Watch him stimulate his own package!)

        Wait for a Jobs one to come out, it will happen eventually.

    • They should be able to sell those dolls in the US, as long as the doll is seen as some kind of parody of Steve Jobs and of his latest biography.

  • California (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Fnord666 (889225) on Thursday January 05, 2012 @11:28PM (#38606274) Journal

    While Apple's copyright infringement claims are questionable, attorneys believe a Steve Jobs action figure released after his death violates the "right of publicity," which is a state law that protects one's image, voice, photograph, identity or signature from being used commercially without consent. Furthermore, California's Celebrity Rights Act in 1985 protects a celebrity's personality rights up to 70 years after their death.

    I don't see where California law is in any way binding or enforceable for a product unless they tried to sell it in California. Just because it is illegal to carry an ice cream cone in your back pocket in Alabama doesn't mean I can't do it in Michigan.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Theaetetus (590071)

      I don't see where California law is in any way binding or enforceable for a product unless they tried to sell it in California. Just because it is illegal to carry an ice cream cone in your back pocket in Alabama doesn't mean I can't do it in Michigan.

      You're absolutely right... including that "unless" clause. The dolls are being offered for sale in California via their website, so the state law applies to those transactions.

      • Re:California (Score:5, Insightful)

        by SecurityGuy (217807) on Thursday January 05, 2012 @11:36PM (#38606320)

        I know people really use this legal theory, but it's utter nonsense. When you do something on a US web site, do you bother with whether it complies with Chinese law? Cuban? Afghani? Should you? Of course not. The mere fact of plugging a network cable into something should not make it subject to the laws of every jurisdiction on the planet.

        • I know people really use this legal theory, but it's utter nonsense. When you do something on a US web site, do you bother with whether it complies with Chinese law? Cuban? Afghani? Should you? Of course not. The mere fact of plugging a network cable into something should not make it subject to the laws of every jurisdiction on the planet.

          Every other kind of border, real and imagined (wait, aren't they all imaginary?) can be enforced with some degree of success, why not borders between information systems? The Internet is full of borders, but they're mostly not nationalized, yet. Nothing is 100% impervious, but that does't make it unsuccessful.

          Can a country regulate information systems inside its borders? As well as it can anything else, for sure.

          In the United States, there is a place you can stand on the border of four different states.

      • Wrong, California has no jurisdiction over the Chinese company period for sanctions unless the Chinese government enforces it, irregardless of how the transaction is occurring. The US government should be intercepting the dolls at customs if they shouldn't be sold in the state. Arguably, the onus should be on the purchaser for knowing what they are importing is violating the law.
        • by Jesse_vd (821123)

          This reminds me of the case of Marc Emery. He's a Canadian currently serving 5 years in the US for selling marijuana seeds on the internet. It's not illegal in Canada and Health Canada was even sending patients to his site to buy seeds. The documentary 'The Union' likened it to a Canadian buying a handgun online and then the Colt company being charged instead of the person importing illegal firearms.

          • Re:California (Score:4, Insightful)

            by SEE (7681) on Friday January 06, 2012 @04:32AM (#38607594) Homepage

            It's not illegal in Canada

            Actually, this is a very important point you got wrong. It is, in fact, illegal in Canada; the Canadian law is merely not enforced.

            The US-Canada extradition treaty specifies that the US can only demand extradition in cases where the act was, by Canadian law, punishable by a prison sentence exceeding 1 year. Emery could only be extradited because Canada left that law on its books, even though it didn't actually enforce it.

            The Parliament of Canada could have, at any time, shut down the extradition effort by simply repealing the law in question, or reducing the maximum sentence to less than a year, or the like. And despite the Conservative government, the House of Commons of Canada had a Liberal-NDP-BQ majority during most of the extradition effort.

            So Mr. Emery is in jail because the freely-elected representatives of the Canadian commons, of all parties, jointly exercised the sovereign power of the Queen-in-Parliament to outlaw his conduct under Canadian law and keep it illegal under Canadian law.

      • by Fjandr (66656)

        But ONLY to those transactions. Any transaction without a party in California is not enforceable under California State law.

      • by Khyber (864651)

        Nope, hello protected speech in the form of parody likenesses.

        Apple's lawyers don't have one leg to stand on. Especially with the LUDICROUS claim of criminal penalties instead of civil ones.

  • Stupid (Score:5, Funny)

    by WindBourne (631190) on Thursday January 05, 2012 @11:35PM (#38606310) Journal
    If they REALLY wanted to stop it, simply threaten to pull the manufacturing and bring it back to USA. Then Chinese gov. will stop it.
  • by VJmes (2449518) on Thursday January 05, 2012 @11:38PM (#38606328)
    No, never!
  • by StefanJ (88986) on Thursday January 05, 2012 @11:40PM (#38606338) Homepage Journal

    The Turing Heat had to steal the Phillip K. Dick automaton head to keep it from going sapient. The small but spunky Jobs Droid snuck under their radar and reached critical neural connections state just after this story broke.

  • Apple has a patent on dolls?

  • by retchdog (1319261) on Thursday January 05, 2012 @11:47PM (#38606380) Journal

    warning! this product contains a likeness known to the state of california to cause lawsuits and frivolous torts.

    • warning! this product contains a likeness known to the state of california to cause lawsuits and frivolous torts.

      New Frosted Pop Torts, breakfast of hooligans.

  • it in an Android like case and Steve wearing an Android shirt and say its a Parody? Just put the actual Apple case inside the Android one and have the "Jobs Style" clothing under the Android shirt.

  • Hypocrisy.

    Apple is guilty of the far more serious crime of having dead celebrities endorse their products in TV commercials [wikipedia.org].

    The one-minute commercial featured black-and-white footage of 17 iconic 20th century personalities. In order of appearance they were: Albert Einstein, Bob Dylan, Martin Luther King, Jr., Richard Branson, John Lennon (with Yoko Ono), Buckminster Fuller, Thomas Edison, Muhammad Ali, Ted Turner, Maria Callas, Mahatma Gandhi, Amelia Earhart, Alfred Hitchcock, Martha Graham, Jim Henson (with Kermit the Frog), Frank Lloyd Wright and Pablo Picasso.

    Typical Apple, talking the talk, without walking the walk. Again.

    • by melted (227442)

      I believe they actually acquired the respective rights to all the photos.

      • Did they acquire rights from the families of the celebrities as well as from the photographers? If not, they're still hypocritical.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        I believe they actually acquired the respective rights to all the photos.

        Apple obtained permission from the photographer to use a copyrighted image, not permission from Gandhi's family to use his likeness to sell a product that he most likely would have been opposed to.

        Hypocrisy. Again.

        • by melted (227442)

          But they didn't use his "likeness". They used the concrete photograph. I'm sure if they decided to make toys of Gandhi, they'd have to get a different kind of deal. With photographs, it is common practice to have models sign "releases", which lets the photographer do with the photograph what he sees fit.

        • by Pecisk (688001)

          Strange, but it IS actually different. Factual photo copyright of the person belongs to photographer (or his employer - depends on contract). You can't copyright fact, so it is not possible for person to forbid to sell this photo - unless it's shooting isn't related with breach of privacy, but there's very grey area there.

          I also have doubts about other laws their mentioned - as usual, lawyers cook these letters like horror stories - because it is very highly unlikely they would even stick. No matter how Job

      • by 1u3hr (530656)

        I believe they actually acquired the respective rights to all the photos.

        Copyright belongs to the photographer, not the subject. The dollmakers could easily acquire the copyright on a photo of Jobs and use that as their model. Not that they really need to, but it would remove any "derivative work" argument.

        Does any artist, sculptor, cartoonist, etc, require the permission of a person to create their likeness? (Rhetorical, answer: no.)

        This stupid "right of publicity" could only have been conceived in Los Angeles. Apple can't stop this anywhere else, and they have just hand

  • by l0ungeb0y (442022) on Friday January 06, 2012 @12:02AM (#38606498) Homepage Journal

    It wasn't the doll as much as the "Nuclear Medicine" Playset complete with "Mr. Chemo" microwave oven that put them off.

    • It wasn't the doll as much as the "Nuclear Medicine" Playset complete with "Mr. Chemo" microwave oven that put them off.

      Actually, I think it was the free plastic liver that did them in.

    • You're crazy, that version won't be out for at least nine months. The won't release it until after the "alternative medicine" playset fails to sell.
  • Apple will succeed in getting the product pulled, and six weeks later, will release their own creepy doll of Steve Jobs that looks (not surprisingly) identical, but costs five times as much. ;)

    • by Brannon (221550)

      That's exactly what they do all right, they copy what other manufacturers make and then charge 5x for it. Absolutely, no question about that--no wonder they are losing so much money.

  • Criminal offense? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Michael Woodhams (112247) on Friday January 06, 2012 @12:36AM (#38606674) Journal

    How on earth does this get to be a criminal offense rather than civil one?

  • Didn't all this happen last year? The unauthorized Steve Jobs doll. The sketchy Chinese manufacturer. The lawsuits.
  • It's the mini lovechild of Steve Jobs and Stanley Tucci. That's kinda creepy in itself I guess.

  • Good Info! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Zalbik (308903) on Friday January 06, 2012 @01:07AM (#38606796)

    Well I'm buying one right now!!!

    Good thing Apple sued, otherwise I might have never known about this.

    Think I'll pick up a Barbara Streisand doll too while I'm at it....

  • by WillyWanker (1502057) on Friday January 06, 2012 @01:10AM (#38606810)
    And how exactly does a California law have any bearing whatsoever in China?
  • by Galestar (1473827) on Friday January 06, 2012 @01:18AM (#38606848)

    The figurine is packaged in a rounded rectangluar box...

    FTFY. Incoming injunction.

  • faux turtleneck...

    What on earth is a "faux" turtleneck? Seriously, is that a US term? Over here and in the UK they just call that style a "turtleneck". What's faux about it?
    • I've never heard it referred to that way, either. I've always heard it referred to as Mock Turtleneck [wikipedia.org].

      I believe a "turtleneck" is usually longer and is customarily folded, whereas a "mock turtleneck" is shorter and doesn't need to be folded. At least that seems to be the difference between the two in my wardrobe.

  • Those bastards got away with making unauthorised Princess Diana dolls because Princess Diana didn't stop them while she was alive [schwimmerlegal.com]

    but Apple being litigious bastards from the get go will most likely prevail and get sale prohibited in US

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