CINCINNATI (TDB) -- A federal appeals court announced today it won't reconsider an October ruling that a Hong Kong company owes General Motors $1.5 million for making toy Humvees. The miniatures infringed on the U.S. automaker's trademark for giant SUVs called Hummers. The case spawned a lot of legalese about Asian copycatting, but nothing about American gas guzzling.
The Humvee is a military vehicle. GM markets a smaller civilian version, the H2, that it describes as "Like Nothing Else" on the road.
A jury in Detroit awarded damages and royalties to GM in March 2005. Lanard Toys Inc., which is based in Kowloon, appealed the ruling to the 6th Circuit U.S Court of Appeals in Cincinnati. A three-judge panel upheld the jury verdict and the full court said Thursday it would not review that decision.
In 1992, Lanard began selling the "Mudslinger," which was modeled after the Humvee. The toy's carton labeled it a "Hyper Humvee." GM acquired the civilian Hummer brand in 1999 from AM General, which still makes the military vehicle. Sometimes in the late 1990s, Lanard began making another toy, "THE CORPS! ATK," which again resembled the Humvee/Hummer.
''In November 2000, General Motors contacted Landard to inform it that Lanards's military toy vehicles infringed on the Hummer vehicle. Lanard again rejected that contention and continued to produce its toys. On March 20, 2001, General Motors filed suit claiming that Lanard's toys infringed on its rights to the Hummer vehicle and grille design" said Circuit Judge Boyce F. Martin, who wrote the ruling in favor of GM.
The design of both the Humvee and Hummer include a front grille with seven vertical slots bookended by round headlights. The grille design was registered with the U.s. Trademark Office in 1996. Civilian Hummers really never caught on until GM bought the brand and pushed it as a sports utility vehicle. Between 1992 and 1999. AM General never sold more than 900 a year. The price tag was over $100,000. The court's ruling from last October is HERE.
GM is still peddling Hummers in this era of $2 gas. But inquiring minds want to know: How long will these dinosaurs stay on the road?