Angry Birds Still Not Smiling
The last time we visited with Angry Birds and Rovio, the Finnish company behind this sensation, an Angry Bird theme park had just opened in China, without permission from Rovio to use their Angry Birds intellectual property. The theme park laughed it off, sort of like the Black Knight in Monty Python and the Holy Grail referring to his “mere flesh wound”. Anyway, since then Angry Birds theme parks have sprouted up, presumably with Rovio’s blessing, in Finland, and soon there will be a second Angry Birds theme park in England. (My son and I are lobbying for one in Carlsbad, but since we already have LegoLand here, I believe that the marketing term “saturation” would be foremost in Rovio’s mind if they were to consider an Angry Bird Land in Carlsbad.)
So, have all the green pigs been knocked out of Rovio’s life?
It appears not. Rovio recently filed a lawsuit against Ideal Toys alleging, among other causes of action, that Ideal Toys infringed Rovio’s copyright on several of the characters in Angry Birds. A second cause of action involves a Lanham Act (15 USC 1125(a)) issue of whether Ideal Toys made their toys so similar to the Angry Birds as to “cause confusion, mistake or deception” – basically, they claim that the two designs are so similar that a consumer might buy and Ideal Toy product thinking it was an Angry Bird.
We did a side by side comparison of an Ideal Toy and an Angry Birds product for sale on eBay.
Take a look bit.ly/MBjRyR and bit.ly/KHunqL As you can see, there are some real similarities between the two and there are some obvious differences. The head feathers of the Ideal Toy are black and oriented vertically down the bird’s back, while the head feathers of the Angry Bird are red in color and oriented horizontally across its head. The eyes are also different, with the Angry Bird eyes being angry and the Ideal Toy eyes looking more like those Japanese anime characters whose eyes take up half of their face; there is nothing “angry” about the Ideal Toys eyes.
Will a consumer be confused?
Well, I wouldn’t be, but I’m supposed to know about these things. So, I turned to a more average user of this product, my 5-year old son Martin. I showed Martin these two pictures at different times, and asked him what it was. “Angry Bird” was the response both times. When I showed him both pictures and asked him which one was THE Angry Bird, he correctly selected the Angry Bird. I then pointed to the Ideal Toy and asked him what it was. He called it “Beak Bird”, so apparently the bird’s beak was the most prominent feature so long as he knew it wasn’t an Angry Bird.
So, should this case get to trial, I can only imagine the scene if both sides call a bunch of 5-year olds as witnesses to prove that consumers are or are not confused. Could be a real made-for-dumb-people-who-watch-TV-way-too-much show. We have reality TV shows on every other useless topic, and at least this one would have some redeeming educational value (and hopefully none of the 5-year olds would end up in rehab every week).