Maker of Steve Jobs Action Figure: 'Apple Can Do Anything They Like...I Will Not Stop'

In icon head said he will not stop production if he is told to cease and desist.

ByLauren Effron
January 03, 2012, 7:26 PM

Jan. 4, 2012— -- One Hong Kong businessman was so enamored with Steve Jobs that he spent years developing the late Apple CEO's likeness into an action figure.

Tandy Cheung and his firm, In icons, started featuring the 12-inch Steve Jobs doll on its website for $99.99, and is unfazed by Internet murmurs that Apple, Inc. or Jobs' estate could take legal action to prevent the doll's release.

"Apple can do anything they like," Cheung said. "I will not stop, we already started production."

Pre-orders for the action figure, which has an eerie similarity to Jobs, are being taken now. The company says it will be released in stores and online in late February.

"I love [Jobs] very much and I think there are a lot of people like me who want to have his action figure," Cheung said.

While he said he was aware Apple had stopped other companies from making Steve Jobs dolls in the past, Cheung said he is "not sure" if his action figure will cause Apple to take legal action. But, Cheung said, he spoke with several lawyers in Hong Kong who told him he wasn't in violation as long as he doesn't include any Apple products with the figure.

"Steve Jobs is not an actor, he's just a celebrity... There is no copyright protection for a normal person," Cheung said. "Steve Jobs is not a product... so I don't think Apple has the copyright of him."

No detail was spared in creating this G.I. Joe-eqse figure, which Cheung said is derived from a 2007 image of Jobs, when "he still looks very healthy." The doll is dressed in Jobs' signature black turtleneck and blue jeans, with a black leather belt, black socks and tiny New Balance sneakers.

"Everybody can only recognize Steve Jobs in that style," Cheung said.

The In icons website shows the Steve Jobs action figure holding a mini-iPhone and iPad, but Cheung said these items would not be included with the doll.

But the doll does come with accessories: two pairs of glasses, a tiny stool, two red apples (one with a bite taken out of it) and three pairs of hands -- Cheung said only the hand featuring Jobs' wedding ring has bendable fingers that can move and hold items.

In the past, Apple has been aggressive in protecting Steve Jobs' image, but this was when Jobs was still alive. He died of cancer Oct. 5 at age 56.

In November 2010, Apple went after the Hong Kong-based M.I.C. Gadget Store when it attempted to market a Steve Jobs action figure. Apple told the company to stop the sale and marketing of the action figure because the company did "not consent to the use of Apple's copyrights and trademarks." On Jan. 18, 2011, M.I.C. re-released the Steve Jobs figure dressed as a ninja -- complete with a black mask, black belt, ninja stars -- and renamed as "Pineapple CEO."

Not fooled by the alterations, Apple's lawyers once again demanded M.I.C end production of the refurbished doll. In a Feb. 8, 2011 statement to M.I.C., Apple said:

"Mr Jobs has not consented to the use of his name and/or image in the Product... The figure and its stand are replications of Mr Jobs image and Apple's trademark. The thin attempt to 'disguise' the figure in its current iteration does not impact the fact that you are plainly trading on Mr Jobs image..."

Lawrence Townsend, an attorney with the San Francisco-based intellectual property firm of Owen, Wickersham and Erickson, said that Cheung's action figure is in "clear violation of the right of publicity."

Right of publicity is a state law that protects an individual's identity, voice, image, photograph or signature from being used commercially without consent. After a person dies, those rights are usually transferred to that person's family or estate in a successor-in-interest claim.

California, the state where Jobs lived with his family and Apple Inc., is headquartered, passed the Celebrity Rights Act in 1985, which protects a celebrity's personality rights up to 70 years after his or her death.

"[Jobs' estate] has every right to enforce this," Townsend said. "I expect there will be a lawsuit to follow."

A quick search of the California's special filings registry did not turn up a listing for a successor-in-interest claim for "Steve Jobs" or "Steven Paul Jobs," but Townsend said Jobs' estate could file to obtain those rights at any time.

Requests for comments from Apple regarding In icon's collectible were not immediately returned.

"A big fan" of Steve Jobs who said he wrote an unauthorized biography of the tech tycoon many years ago, Cheung said he started making his Jobs' action figure long before the world knew the Apple CEO was sick. While Jobs' death was "really shocking," Cheung said the timing of his doll's release is "just coincidence."

"I love Steve Jobs for many years," he said. "I didn't know when he would die, but we did have it prepared."

In fact, the current Steve Jobs action figure is the eighth version of the doll that has been improved over time, Cheung said.

While Steve Jobs is the first doll In icons has produced, Cheung said now that his company has a partnership in place with a manufacturer and distributor, it plans to make other dolls of iconic figures, slated to be released later this year -- although Cheung wouldn't say of whom the dolls would be.

"I think the best way to remember [Jobs] is to make an action figure of him," he said.

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