Friday, May 13, 2005
GM wins trademark fight over toy Hummer 'knock-off'
Lanard Toys Inc. ordered to stop selling its vehicle, pay $3.1 million after four-year battle.
By David Shepardson / The Detroit News
DETROIT - General Motors Corp. and AM General Corp. won a four-year federal battle to keep a toy military vehicle off the shelves that the companies called a "knock-off" of the Hummer.
U.S. District Judge Arthur Tarnow issued a permanent injunction ordering Lanard Toys Inc. to stop selling its CORPS! ATK Vehicle because it infringed on Hummer's trademark design.
Following a three-day trial in March, a jury ordered Lanard Toys to pay $1.3 million because the company "used the trademark intentionally knowing that it was an infringement." During the trial, Lanard's chief designer said in a video deposition that he had copied aspects of the Hummer. In one model sold previously at Kmart, the box identified the product as a "Corps Hummer." Toys "R" Us advertised it as a "Humvee."
GM, which has exclusive ownership of the Hummer brand name worldwide, filed suit in March 2001 in Detroit. It has spent $680,000 in legal fees prosecuting the case. AMG joined the case in 2003 and spent $145,000.
GM went to great lengths to win the case -- even dispatching an accountant to Hong Kong, where Lanard is based, to track down computer sales records of the toy. Tarnow ordered Lanard to repay GM the $13,000 the automaker spent to send the accountant to Hong Kong because he found the company had misled the court about its records.
Following the jury's verdict, Tarnow said last month that GM and AMG are entitled to attorneys' fees, interest on the award and other costs.
The Detroit automaker said in a court filing that it and AMG should be awarded $2.3 million, plus $825,000 in legal fees.
Lanard Toys earned $6 million in revenue from sales of the ATK command vehicle and had used the Hummer design since 1998, the jury found.
Stephen Wasinger, a lawyer for Lanard, didn't return calls seeking comment. The company said in a court filing Thursday that GM had made exorbitant claims for legal fees, often sending two or three lawyers to every court meeting.
"Another party should not be obliged to pay GM for Cadillac representation where a Chevrolet will do," Wasinger wrote.
Lanard Toys has asked the court to reverse the jury's award, saying it was excessive.
GM and AMG has licensed the Hummer to many toy manufacturers in the last decade.
You can reach David Shepardson at (313) 222-2028