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 Orphaned Toy Lines: Roboforce, Eagle Force, Zeroids and More

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argosail

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PostSubject: Eagle Force   Mon May 03, 2010 8:31 am

Does anyone have any thoughts or ideas about whether the characters from the toyline "Eagle Force" are now in the public domain? Here is what I know (all of which can be learned with a Google search):

Eagle Force was created around 1980, as a competitor to G.I. Joe. Very similar concept, and as a kid, I loved the Eagle Force toys. They were produced by a company called MEGO, which went bankrupt around 1982-1983. They sold off their assets, but Eagle Force was never sold to anyone, as far as I am aware. There was one particular artist who was responsible for designing the characters, but the concept of the characters were created by a MEGO executive, and that executive worked with the artist to create characters that would be profitable to the company. So, this seems like a case of a work for hire, for a company that no longer exists, and a property that is long forgotten and legally ownerless. What do you guys think? Is Eagle Force in the public domain?

It is worthwhile to know, because Eagle Force represents about two dozen very colorful characters.

I think a similar situation exists with the characters from the old "Photon" saturday morning TV show. It was created by a company that no longer seems to exist. However, the situation there is slightly more complicated, as the owner of the old company has a new company, and he may still have the rights to Photon. I think a lot more research is needed on that one.

Can anyone else think of properties created by companies that went out of business, and never sold off their IP assets? Don't start on Acclaim, because the assets were sold.
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VitoDelsante



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PostSubject: Re: Orphaned Toy Lines: Roboforce, Eagle Force, Zeroids and More   Sat May 15, 2010 12:11 pm

They are not:

http://tess2.uspto.gov/bin/showfield?f=doc&state=4010:gegah7.3.1

According to the Trademark Electronic Search System, iStar Entertainment/Jeffrey Abrams owns the trademark for dolls, clothing, and playsets. I'm not 100% sure, but I'm guessing he's related to Marty Abrams, the man who started Mego.

So no, not in public domain.
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argosail

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PostSubject: Orphaned Toy Lines: Roboforce, Eagle Force, Zeroids and More   Thu Nov 18, 2010 4:31 pm

Having grown up in the 80's, I remember a lot of awesome toylines from my childhood that just kind of disappeared. I got to wondering about what happened to those properties and I've been doing some research. I'm now at a point where I am seriously wondering if some of those very cool properties could be considered legally abandoned. That is, if the companies that produced these toys, went out of business without selling the intellectual property rights to the characters in the line. It would certainly explain why these toys have not been seen since. Here are the companies I have been looking into:

IDEAL

Apparently, Ideal Toys was sold to CBS Toys and it's division Gabriel Toys. Gabriel Toys was sold to Viewmaster, and Viewmaster was sold to Mattel. The question though is...were all of the assets legally transferred in all of those transactions? Is it possible, that some of the old, forgotten properties were neglected?

CAPTAIN ACTION AND ZEROIDS - Part of the reason I wonder about this company's properties is because these two toylines, both original creations of Ideal, released in 1967 are now being used by companies which clearly have had no dealings with Mattel. An old fan managed to do his due diligence and get a small toy company called "Playing Mantis" toys to sell a new line of Captain Action figures, and he no owns Captain Action Enterprises which has also gotten a comic company called Moonstone to publish comics based on Captain Action and the Zeroids.

ROBOFORCE (Maxx Steele) - Roboforce is my main interest in Ideal's old toylines. Although the Roboforce characters were big, cheesy looking robots, I still remember them fondly and would love to see them team up with other PD characters in new stories. There was a colorful assortment of robots and characters in that line. They also had quite a bit of backstory. Each robot came with bio data and a mini-comic and there was a cartoon TV special (check YouTube). So, it would be nice to preserve those characters and nobody has seen them since the mid 80's. Is it possible that the rights to this line got lost in the shuffle like Captain Action and the Zeroids? Or does Mattel just not care to put them back on the market? Seems like a bad choice, given the fact they are well aware that this is the time to capitalize on 80's nostalgia, like they did with He-Man. Does anyone have any ideas on how we might be able to determine if Mattel owns Roboforce or if it is another orphaned property?

OTHER: Ideal produced a few other action lines here and there with potentially useful characters.

---------------------------------------------------

MEGO

Mego went out of business and was never sold to anyone. It's assets were liquidated into a trust to pay off its employees. The question is...could the owners of that trust sue someone for using an intellectual property owned by the company, and how likely is that. The company went out of business almost 30 years ago. Could anyone claim a stake to unsold assets, like a forgotten IP?

EAGLE FORCE - I've brought up Eagle Force before, because I thought they were pretty cool characters back in the day. Very similar to G.I. Joe. I think it would be cool for them to act as the elite force of the Free Universe. Now, it appears that a relative of MEGO's last owner, and co-creator of Eagle Force, has trademarked the name "Eagle Force" for merchandising. Now, the owner could not just assign the rights to the characters to his family, because Eagle Force was primarily created by another artist as a work for hire for the Mego corporation and it would be a conflict of interest for the family to accept the rights to the property, which was an asset of the Mego corporation. Now the family may have a legitimate trademark on the name, but I am not convinced that they, or anyone else, holds the copyright.


---------------------------------------------------


Other properties that I am wondering about:

Mantech by Remco: It was an obscure line that sold poorly, but had some wicked looking sci-fi characters. Remco went out of business, but was sold off. Still, it's possible that Mantech was also overlooked as an asset, since it has not been seen since. That might just be wishful thinking though.

Photon - I believe I read somewhere that the Photon entity basically went out of business without being sold to anyone. If that is the case, then the content of the licensed TV show, "Photon" may be orphaned as well. That TV show only survives as VHS tapes and YouTube videos (it's never been released on DVD and probably never will be), but some of the sci-fi characters and alien races would be a welcome additions to the Free Universe.

So, if anyone has any solid ideas on how to verify the status of all these properties, the info would be welcome. Some of these would be a gold mine of characters and ideas.
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bchat



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PostSubject: Re: Orphaned Toy Lines: Roboforce, Eagle Force, Zeroids and More   Thu Nov 18, 2010 10:37 pm

argosail wrote:
Having grown up in the 80's, I remember a lot of awesome toylines from my childhood that just kind of disappeared. I got to wondering about what happened to those properties and I've been doing some research. I'm now at a point where I am seriously wondering if some of those very cool properties could be considered legally abandoned. That is, if the companies that produced these toys, went out of business without selling the intellectual property rights to the characters in the line. It would certainly explain why these toys have not been seen since. Here are the companies I have been looking into:

MEGO

Mego went out of business and was never sold to anyone. It's assets were liquidated into a trust to pay off its employees. The question is...could the owners of that trust sue someone for using an intellectual property owned by the company, and how likely is that. The company went out of business almost 30 years ago. Could anyone claim a stake to unsold assets, like a forgotten IP?

EAGLE FORCE - I've brought up Eagle Force before, because I thought they were pretty cool characters back in the day. Very similar to G.I. Joe. I think it would be cool for them to act as the elite force of the Free Universe. Now, it appears that a relative of MEGO's last owner, and co-creator of Eagle Force, has trademarked the name "Eagle Force" for merchandising. Now, the owner could not just assign the rights to the characters to his family, because Eagle Force was primarily created by another artist as a work for hire for the Mego corporation and it would be a conflict of interest for the family to accept the rights to the property, which was an asset of the Mego corporation. Now the family may have a legitimate trademark on the name, but I am not convinced that they, or anyone else, holds the copyright.

Copyrights don't expire simply because a company ceases to exist. Atlas/Seaboard is a nice example from the world of comics: The company disappeared in 1975 and never transferred their Copyrights to another publisher. Jason Goodman, the grandson of publisher Martin Goodman, holds the Copyrights (or at least is representing the family) and, in 2010, started working with Ardden Entertainment to produce comics based on several Atlas/Seaboard characters.

Basically, the people who own a company are the ones who hold that company's Copyrights, even after a company ceases to exist. "Work-for-hire" means just that: you are hired to work for someone else and don't get any rights to the work you create, you just get a paycheck and maybe a nice pat on the back. The Abrams family would be the ones who held any rights to properties created & owned by Mego after the company ceased operations, and they could assign those rights to members of the family in any way they see fit (currently, it appears that Mego Enterprises, LLC holds the rights to Eagle Force while MIC Holdings, LLC has the rights to the Micronauts).
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PostSubject: Re: Orphaned Toy Lines: Roboforce, Eagle Force, Zeroids and More   Fri Nov 19, 2010 10:01 am

Great post, bchat. Another perfect example of this would be Captain Action. When the action figure disappeared after a brief stint in the 1970s, I figured that was that. But now the folks who owned the copyright have brought him back in a comic series for Moonstone.

Too bad, there are plenty of defunct toy lines that might have made neat stories or cool additions to the Free Universe.
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PostSubject: Re: Orphaned Toy Lines: Roboforce, Eagle Force, Zeroids and More   Mon Nov 22, 2010 5:48 pm

But, that was my point Golden Bard. The guy who brought back Captain Action for Moonstone has absolutely no association with Ideal toys, who created the character. He got permission to take over the trademark, which had been upsurped 20 years after Ideal stopped making the toys, but the original owners of Captain Action never made any deals with the people who are currently using the character. I believe he is public domain. Don't quote me, but I see no evidence that legit deals were made.

bchat,

I'm still not convinced that the Abrams own Eagle Force. The Mego corporation's assets were dissolved into a trust, because they couldn't afford to pay their employees. The guy who did about 90 percent of the work in creating the characters was never fully paid. Intellectual property rights are an asset. Wouldn't it kind of be a conflict of interests for the Abrams family to sit on those assets and claim them for themselves? Wouldn't that be like sitting on the company jet? Also, a Chinese company used the Eagle Force molds to create a new line of action figures called "Action Figure." Wouldn't that be copyright infringement (the molds being a form of derivative art)? Why weren't they sued? My guess is that the Abrams wouldn't stand to profit on it, and the trust wasn't organized enough to bring a case (which might have been more straight forward if the trademarks were violated).

I'm not saying you're wrong. You're probably right. I just wish there was a good way to find out. I still want to know what the deal is with the Ideal lines. But for the boys and girls listening...don't use these characters until uncle Argo has solid enough evidence to post them on Free Universe...haha....
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bchat



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PostSubject: Re: Orphaned Toy Lines: Roboforce, Eagle Force, Zeroids and More   Mon Nov 22, 2010 11:33 pm

Quote :
Also, a Chinese company used the Eagle Force molds to create a new line of action figures called "Action Figure." Wouldn't that be copyright infringement (the molds being a form of derivative art)? Why weren't they sued? My guess is that the Abrams wouldn't stand to profit on it, and the trust wasn't organized enough to bring a case (which might have been more straight forward if the trademarks were violated).

Most knock-off/bootleg companies don't put their names on the packaging because they know they're doing something illegal. The bootleg figures I've run across are usually blank on the back of the cards. Yes, the "Action Figure" was probably illegal, most likely a case where the company that manufactured the toys in Hong Kong either made the "Action Figures" themselves or sold the molds for Eagle Force to a Chinese toy company. Without a company name on the packaging, it would take a lot of work for the Abrams to figure-out who they could sue. Part of the reason as to why the Abrams never took action may be related to when the "Action Figure" line came out. Once Mego stopped producing toys, would they even care if someone was making knock-offs of Eagle Force, something they themselves were no longer making money from?
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