back to article Apple said to threaten legal action over Steve Jobs doll

If you're a Jobsian fanboi jonesing for the recently announced Steve Jobs action figure, we have some bad news for you: Apple doesn't want you to have one. So reports The Telegraph, which says that the Chinese action-figure maker In Icons has received a letter from Cupertino's lawyers threatening legal action should the 12- …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Does apple own the rights to Job's estate?

    Did they trademark his name? I don't see any Apple logo's on the doll. I'm confused. Are there any grounds here? Is it a special case for persons of high status or recognition within a company?

    Hopefully my employer can't steal my posthumous likeness, just because I worked for them before death.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I guess Steve Jobs could have transferred the rights to his public image to Apple on his will, or maybe more likely it's actually the family suing - possibly via Apple's lawyers.

      This source of this report is after all company in China so reports are never very precise. Without seeing the actual complaint it's hard to say what's going on.

    2. BrentRBrian

      Grounds ?

      The only grounds here are in the lawyer's coffee mug.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Someone owns the rights to Steve's likeness and I too would have thought it would be his family or those in control of his estate. Apple have much more expensive lawyers than anyone else so maybe his estate simply passed the matter through to them to handle?

      You know that your image is entirely your property. If anyone takes your image or likeness tries to sell it without your permission, you can haul them into court. Are you listening too Facebook? We own our own likenesses!

      1. James 139


        I'd think that accepting Facebook T&C that contained things like "you give us permission to use anything you post for our own evil purposes", then they would be one step closer to owning your likeness if you posted it.

      2. Keep Refrigerated

        Perhaps they own a design patent on Jobs?

        If so, this guys in trouble:

        Obviously too late for Apples lawyers to get an injuction against his mother giving birth to him, but perhaps the court can grant one to stop him from breathing until he gets plastic surgery or the high court makes a decision.

        Just change your face, not that big of a deal.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      He was an owner and employee of apple, not the other way around. Since he is dead he has no further relationship with apple. Case dismissed!

  2. Graham Marsden

    Well of course...

    ... after all, this doll is copying the look and feel of the real Steve Jobs...!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Look and Feel

      Copying the look of Steve Jobs sure. Surely though, the feel is a different matter. I can imagine the figurine would be cold, hard and plasticy whereas during life the real Steve Jobs would have been warm, soft and fleshy.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Surely you got that the wrong way round?

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        i belive you had it right firttime

        "Surely though, the feel is a different matter. I can imagine the figurine would be cold, hard and plasticy "

        yup, that's probably about right!!!

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      ... after all, this doll is copying the look and feel of the real Steve Jobs...!

      What would that be.. Plastic, no soul, empty head, no genitals

  3. Eddy Ito

    Wouldn't be easy

    In the US, Apple would most likely have to sue at the state level or make some quick phone calls to their congressional lackeys^W legislators to get some laws passed. As it stands only about 20 states recognize rights of publicity. In California it extends for 70 years after death and in Illinois it is 100 years. In the other 30 states, you would have to sue to find out what the judges think. As for the rest of the world, I can't imagine it would be much less murky.

    Of course this assumes that Steve left his rights of publicity to Apple in order for them to even have standing in the case. Alternatively, Apple might play the valiant knight and be willing to back any case the family would choose to raise. PR wise, I don't see much of an upshot to the former option but who knows, Apple certainly has been keeping the lawyers of the world well fed of late so maybe they are only concerned with stimulating the legal economy.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Isn't this well known?

    You can't sell items like this realistically depicting people without authorisation.

    It's the same if you start selling e.g. Bob Marley t-shirts with his face on them, you'd quickly be told not to.

    On the other hand I really doubt Apple is interested - at all - in making royalties from this, they just don't want people selling dolls of their founder.

    1. Geoff Campbell Silver badge

      Well known?

      I think you might be conflating Steve Jobs' estate with Apple. Legally, his family have a right to his image, Apple do not, unless some very unusual arrangements were put in place.


    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      It depends on your jurisdiction

      In the UK there is an Act of Parliament that specifically restricts what you can do with images of Princess Diana, but in general you can do what you like with the images of dead people, as far as I know ... which isn't very far and I wouldn't be the slightest bit surprised if they've changed the law recently without telling me.

      Incidentally, there was a case in which a US company that was selling images of Princess Diana was sued by the UK organisation that "owns" her image. The UK organisation lost, if I recall correctly. So you can sell images of dead people without authorisation in some cases, even in the US.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        AC @09:38

        The UK company lost because it only "owns" Princess D's image in the UK. The US company was selling her images in the US where the UK company had no rights.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Please explain

          Yes, but what I'd like to know is whether anyone "owns", or could "own", Princess D's image in the US, or whether it's a free-for-all over there (except California, perhaps).

    3. MacGyver

      It really just depends on the countries' laws doesn't it?

      I'm sure that there is a country somewhere that has no laws with regards to "likenesses" of people, and if they aren't part of the WTO, short of having the state department setup a trade embargo against them, I don't think there is precious little Apple or anyone could do to stop it.

      Imagine if it were Iran that was making the doll, do you think that Apple would go there to fight this? I bet not. Hell I bet companies in Iran frame "cease and desist" letters from U.S. attorneys, and mount them on the wall the way red-necks mount elk heads.

  5. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge


    Have it say "Apple are shit" when you pull a string and it becomes parody and protected under the constitution

    1. Darryl
      Thumb Up

      I'd buy one of those

  6. Allison Park

    They have two claims: Copyright infringment and patent

    Seems Apple copyrighted Steve and I am not sure but they might have applied for a patent for him also. I don't think there is prior work of steve, but I know he has a sister.

    1. Pete 2 Silver badge

      Prior art?

      But couldn't one claim that he's a derivative work, courtesy of his parents?

    2. peter 45

      additional protection

      does his face have round edges?

  7. regorama

    As soon as it starts selling i'm getting on, my Android robot is going to do all sorts of things to him ;)

    1. Doogie1

      well they've sold one then!

  8. jaygeejay

    Might not be the doll itself

    I suspect their problem is with (one of) the accessories - the apple with a bite taken out of it. That is trademarked.

    From the Telegraph article linked here:

    "The action figure comes with a pair of black socks, some glasses, a leather belt, two apples (one with a bite taken out of it), a bar stool and a "One More Thing" backdrop."

    1. Local Group

      Didn't Snow White demonstrate prior usage of an apple with a bite missing?

      Certainly Eve did.

      1. jaygeejay

        Re: Didn't Snow White...

        So what? Apple Computers sued Apple records for the name - and won, even though Apple records pre-dated Apple Computers. Everything is possible in the "alternative reality".

        1. Local Group

          @ Didn't Snow White...

          From Wikipedia:

          "In 1978, Apple Corps, the Beatles-founded holding company and owner of their record label, Apple Records, filed a lawsuit against Apple Computer for trademark infringement. The suit was settled in 1981 with an undisclosed amount being paid to Apple Corps. This amount had been estimated to be US$50–US$250 million, but was later revealed to be US$80,000.[1] As a condition of the settlement, Apple Computer agreed not to enter the music business, and Apple Corps agreed not to enter the computer business."

          "Everything is possible in the "alternative reality." Including mixing up winners and losers. :o)

          1. JohnG

            Re Didn't Snow White...

            "...Apple Computer agreed not to enter the music business..."

            So, one wonders where they stand vis a vis iTiunes.

    2. KnucklesTheDog

      "One More Thing" backdrop? Did he steal his power point template from Peter Falk?

      1. Field Marshal Von Krakenfart
        IT Angle


        Keynote shurely...

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    What about a Playmobil™ version courtesy El Reg?

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Sounds like the Princess Diana doll story all over again

    where the Diana Memorial Fund pissed away all their money and lost.

    Still this will be US law rather than UK law, so they will probably claim that Apple holds the Patent Rights on replicating Steve Jobs.

    1. John Lilburne
      Thumb Up

      "The fund, which had clearly been badly advised, tried to copyright the image of a historical person [the Princess], which was absolute insanity. It is now suffering as a result of its own foolhardy actions."

      Last year a spokesman for Franklin Mint insisted the fund had fought a "suicidal" legal action and should be held responsible for its "bad behaviour".

  11. Anonymous Coward

    The real problem

    Is that Apple wants a piece of the apple, err, pie, too. I'm pretty sure that if In Icon agrees to a very reasonable fee of, say, 75% of the income generated from toy sales then Apple will have no problem what so ever anymore.

    Could make In Icons position even stronger as well when they let Apple deal with all the legal issues; "What's that? Your child ate one of the hands and died of poisoning, so now you hold us accountable? Didn't you read the 20 page license manifest before opening the box, as instructed on the box itself? It clearly says on page 18 paragraph 32, line 14 that 'we cannot be held responsible for damages occurred from consuming the doll'."

    1. BristolBachelor Gold badge

      It's all very well you saying that Apple would be happy if they just paid the 75% iApple tax, but you forgot that Apple also need to define what it can do...

      Movable hands, and arms that can move too? Nope, sorry not allowed....

  12. Local Group

    Do US State laws apply to Chinese toymakers?

    Do Alabama abortion laws apply in New York? Can European or Asian countries legally import toys made in China, but which violate the laws of the State of California?**

    To find out the answers to these and many more questions,*** stay tuned to el erg.

    ** "While Apple's copyright infringement claims are questionable, attorneys believe a Steve Jobs action figure released after his death violates the "right of publicity," which is a state law that protects one's image, voice, photograph, identity or signature from being used commercially without consent. Furthermore, California's Celebrity Rights Act in 1985 protects a celebrity's personality rights up to 70 years after their death."

    ***Are these the same lawyers who bought the trademark "iPad" from a company who did not own the trademark, but were just a subsidiary of the company who did?

  13. John Latham

    I see the problem

    His head has rounded corners.

  14. LarsG


    To avoid unlicensed copies.

    Who the hello would buy one anyway,.or is this the ultimate fanbois accessory?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Hope their next toy is a LarsG voodoo doll. Would pay a good $1.49 for that, but only if you don't claim royalties.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Can't see the problem..

    Just change the name, not that big of a deal.

    1. Tel Starr

      To 'G.I. Jobs'?

      1. TwistUrCapBack

        that made me spit my brew out lol

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward


        G. iJobs surely?

    2. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      But to what?

      To the "WozCompanion™" action figurine?

  16. Local Group

    Where is Matt Bryant now...

    to tell us if the trustee making payments to the Madoff victims should sue to recover royalties for the popular Madoff doll or whether the Madoff doll and the Jobs doll can not be compared?

    Matt, of course, is the last word in comparisons here at el reg.

  17. Pete the not so great

    Will there be a 7" version

    nothing to see here

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Surely there's a greater claim for New Balance against that doll than Apple have?

  19. Wang N Staines

    As miss Abbot once said, "all white men look the same to me"...

  20. Silverburn

    Can I just say...

    ..that in this instance and ignoring the subject matter, that this is something that's come out of China that's actually quite a good job? There's some proper attention to detail there, and the replication of materials is good. The wrists could have been done better - it's all very 1980's action man - but on the whole this is a good replication.

    Oh dear...I may have just let slip about my doll collection fetish...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Down

      Looks like a Photoshop job, to me. I think, purely in the name of research, The Reg should buy one and show us what the thing actually looks like "in the plastic". I suspect it might bear as little resemblance to that photo as certain inflatable companions do to real women.

  21. Pete 2 Silver badge

    Number 2

    > Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God,

    Fortunately the Ten Commandments are now out of copyright (though presumably if they'd been sent to Disney instead of Moses, that copyright term would have been extended while there was still money to be made from them) so I can quote the above.

    It does sound like part of the Jobs deification process - maybe Apple is set to turn into a church, if only for the tax breaks. Though if Apple Corp. does get into the salvation business I can't help wondering how long it will take them to patent the sacraments, copyright all the iconography then sue the Catholics, Jews, Muslims and Hindus.

  22. jabuzz

    Princess DIana

    Was tried after Princess Diana died and it failed. Apple and the estate of Steve Jobs are onto a loosing wicket.

  23. EddieD

    Even more irrelevant...

    I don't think that the descendants of Peter the Apostle, currently domiciled in the Vatican, have done that badly by exploiting the image of the Nazarene. No-one is quite sure as to the current value of the Roman Catholic church, but it's in the billions (pending lawsuits notwithstanding).

    Add in the value of all the competing franchises, and that's not a small amount of wonga.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Yes, but ...

    ... will it blend?

  25. stu 4


    where's my steve jobs with 3 realistic openings, that's what I'm waiting for.....

  26. Nameless Faceless Computer User

    This provides evidence that Steve was really an android built by Apple whose firmware could not run on their new Lion operating system.

  27. gaz 7

    El Reg has to get one of these

    There is some seriously dodgy fun that the Register (and others) could have with this doll and other playmobil or other toys.....

    Especially on Fridays....

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    How would you like it if people made a doll of your departed relative (without your consent) and started selling it?

    1. Intractable Potsherd
      Thumb Down

      Liking is irrelevant.

      I may not like it, but there would be absolutely nothing in law that I could do about it. I would also be very pleased that there was nothing in law that I could do about it, because such a law would be insane.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      I mean it's not like Steve Jobs was famous or anything, and they see films, clips, photos, magazines, and books of/about him every day??

    3. A J Stiles
      Thumb Down

      Re: Dirty

      I might not like it, but there's nothing to stop them -- and more to the point, neither should there be. There can be no intellectual property inherent in a person's likeness.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    You probably cannot stop they trying to do it (right or wrong) and Apple should probably not try - just gives them more publicity. The best option would be for no-one to buy it.

  30. proto-robbie

    He's back...

    ...the iDoll?

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

  31. Purlieu


    American iDoll


  32. Chris Evans

    Civil not criminal

    The reporting doesn't pick up on the only interesting point which is that it is claimed to be a criminal offence! The article also fails to make it clear who is claiming it is criminal, apple or the newspaper?

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Jeve Stobs Dolls

    Now Available.

    *All likeness is purely coincidental..

    1. hplasm

      Can you get

      Verity Stob dolls too?

  34. Winkypop Silver badge
    Big Brother

    It's a doll

    It's made of plastic.

    Move along here, there's nothing to see.

  35. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I wonder...

    I see you can change the trousers, can you swap the internal organs as well?

  36. Anonymous Coward


    they get a 30% cut of the sales.

  37. Marty

    its time to lawyer up....

    It makes no difference if the claim has any legal legs or not, its about who can fund or are willing to fund the lawyers longer.

    If the company that is producing these dolls is going to spend more money defending against the claim than they are likely to make in profits in sales then what are they going to do? the sensible thing is pull the plug on the production..

    its not about right or wrong these days, its about who can afford to pay the lawyers longer...

    I bet apple corp will buy up any figures they have already produced and have them on sale in the apple stores as a limited edition (with a % going to a relevant charity of course).

    can we have an expensive lawyer icon please

    1. Matthew Collier

      True if...

      ....the Chinese company has a US presence. If they don't and choose to ignore any suit, they could just sell the thing from their, presumably, Chinese website, and spend nothing on legal costs!?

      Am I missing something? ;)

  38. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    proof, if needed.....

    ....that 95% of people out there are just SAD SAD SAD individuals.

    Anyone buying of these monstrosities needs to be put to sleep like the rabid animal they portray.

    WOW you really are a sad bunch! (Probably facebook using, iphone owning, tweeting lunatics who'll follow any fking crowd because you've no identity of your own!)

    Let’s hope nature creates a disease that attacks your type and rids the planet of the dross.

  39. Benanov

    Only one question I have...

    Does it come with a spare liver?

  40. Local Group

    "The evil that men do lives after them....

    The good is oft made into a 12" action figure.

  41. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    It's Chucky's evil brother....

  42. zen1


    all I can think of is a commercial that aired in the US a couple years ago, for Nissan. It involved, Barbie, Ken and G.I. Joe. Ken, complete with pink sweatter wrapped around his neck, heads over to Barbie's house, however he shows up just in time to see her hopping in a Z car with GI Joe.

    Sorry, I think Apple has stepped a little too far over the line this time.

    However, I do wonder who would win a hypothetical fight between a Ken doll or a Jobs doll? While I think Ken may have the physical edge, Jobs' razor sharp tongue and explosive temper might be enough to take Ken down. All he needs is a Kung fu grip and he could be an icon like Chuck Norris.

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