Transformers and DC Comics Settle "Bumblebee" Superhero Dispute

Who knew those cars where secretly attorneys in disguise. Hasbro, the creator of Transformers and the Bumblebee character, sued DC Comics and Warner Bros. over a toys bearing the name of a superhero also called Bumblebee but the parties have reached a settlement.

In 2015, DC Comics began distributing a line of toys and corresponding animated web series called DC SuperHero Girls. The premise of the series is that a bunch of well-known superheroes attend high school and deal with fun teenager stuff. I have never seen this web series and based on that description, I have no desire to do so. I like my superheroes older, crustier, and with less zits. The main characters are some of the most famous DC female characters such as Harley Quinn, Poison Ivy, Batgirl, and Bumblebee (?). According to the reliable source known as Wikipedia, Bumblebee is “a social butterfly, she uses her abilities to spy on super-villains to ensure that her team is always prepared for any scheme. Her powers include shrinkability, sonic blasts, and enhanced strength. This tech genius is outgoing and energetic. The selfless superhero believes in the powerful effects of teamwork.” Yawn. The line of Bumblebee toys can be seen below. Double yawn.

Image of DC Comics Bumblebee
DC Comics’ Bumblebee

Bumblebee is a great name for an action figure but, ooops, there is already a well-known action figure with that name. Since October 3,1983, Hasbro has used the BUMBLEBEE trademark in association with one of the most popular Transformers character. Originally appearing as a Volkswagen Bug in the toys and cartoon series, Bumblebee is a Camaro in the Baytastophy movies and has his own spin-off film in the works set in the 1980s. Hasbro has a registered trademark for BUMBLEBEE covering action figures. Seemed like a pretty solid case, Hasbro has used the name prominently for years and then DC Comics’ toy came around. Hasbro claims that people are likely to confuse the two BUMBLEBEES and think they are associated, when in fact they are not.

When this case was filed almost a year ago the question was, why did Hasbro wait two years to take action on this? If a plaintiff waits in asserting its rights to a trademark, that time can be used against them. Hasbro sued in New York Federal Court for trademark infringement and related causes of action and seeks damages, attorneys’ fees, and wanted DC enjoined from using the BUMBLEBEE mark in the future. A year later and on Wednesday the case was dismissed. The dismissal was not part of any court decision but because the parties have reached a settlement. The terms of the settlement, as is most common, are being kept confidential. Perhaps there was a licensing agreement, perhaps DC Comics paid out some money, perhaps they agreed to just coexists. We shall never know but this case was thrown away like your old comic books.