Has Hasbro Nerfed Its Own Fan Goodwill?

Being on the Internet, you're probably aware of the Streisand Effect. It seems as though Hasbro, makers of the always-popular-at-Giz Nerf Guns, haven't, as they're suing an Aussie blogger (and more or less former Nerf fan) via what allegedly appears to be some rather devious tactics. Martyn Yang's a Canberra based public servant, but he's also something of a large scale fan of soft foamy weaponry, and Hasbro's Nerf range in particular. His site, Urban Taggers ran a review of Hasbro's unreleased N-STRIKE ELITE “RAMPAGE” BLASTER, which Yang states he sourced via Chinese Auction site Taobao. That stuff happens from time to time, and Yang was delighted when Hasbro representatives allegedly contacted him with the offer of some Nerf Pinpoint Sights to both review and give away as prizes on his site; all they'd need was his address to send the products to.

So far, so good.

Then (again, allegedly according to Yang), the legal fun and games began. Having sent through his address, rather than prizes, he received a letter from legal firm Baker & McKenzie (representing Hasbro) demanding that he remove the images and review of the N-STRIKE ELITE “RAMPAGE”, along with turning over all information (including IP address) of wherever he'd sourced the information.

Yang complied with the request to remove the review, but citing journalistic obligations to protect his sources, didn't specify the exact details of his transaction, stating that he'd got them off Taobao, and suggesting that they check the site there as Nerf products apparently often come up.

The lawyers wanted more detail, but at the exact same time, the PR side of Hasbro was still allegedly reaching out to Yang trying again to get his address to send him the pinpoint sights. This (understandably) confused Yang, who mentioned it in correspondence with Hasbro's legal folks, who apparently knew nothing of it — but still wanted Yang's sources for the N-STRIKE product.

Then things got really strange; according to Yang, one Sunday, two people were spotted hanging around his apartment by his neighbours; when confronted by him, they wanted to tape the conversation with him; it appears that the two (one of whom identified herself as "Christine") may have been private investigators hired by Hasbro's legal firm.

Yang understandably wasn't impressed; in his correspondence with the legal firm, he wrote

"I realise I forgot to get back to you because I have been busy with work and non-Nerf matters but I really think that it was extremely unprofessional and wrong to send strange people to come and lurk around my apartment block menacingly like that. You really freaked out the neighbours and people who live nearby mentioned some strange woman and a big-looking repo-man-looking guy hanging around suspiciously.

First of all, you’re lucky that no one called the police. Secondly, I really do not appreciate being ambushed by lawyers or their representatives on a Sunday afternoon when I haven’t done anything wrong, I have taken down the images and it’s not my fault that neither you nor Hasbro seem to be able to find out whoever the original source of the guns. It would also have been appropriate to give me forewarning so that I could have a lawyer present."

Yang has now referred the matter of the Office of the NSW Legal Services Commissioner. When Crikey contacted the legal firm, they were told it couldn't make any comment; Hasbro did likewise.

There's clearly a couple of interesting things at play here. Sure, at one level it is just about plastic soft foam guns, but equally, confidential information does leak online at a rate of knots these days — see, for example, the entire Apple rumours industry. It's not entirely unreasonable for a company to try to protect its trade secrets, however at the same time, if, as Yang alleges, Hasbro used the promise of promotional freebies to garner his address, that's a massive public relations misstep that they're now no doubt regretting.

Thanks also to Steve for the tip! [Urban Taggers and Crikey]


Comments

    This sounds like the right hand not knowing what the left hand is doing. I'd say the PR team and Legal department have no idea what the other is doing. PR tries to reward him and cultivate the relationship which is a beneficial one for them, whilst legal gets wind and sends a cease & desist letter.

    Sounds like something Sony would do. Lawyers are scum, they do not do what is right, they do what they can get away with. I hope this goes viral and they regret it

      Lawyers act on instructions from their client. No more, no less. Every time a client instructs their lawyer to use the law to achieve a dishonourable (though legal) outcome, everyone blames the lawyer.

        If someone pays a thief to steal something, does that mean the thief did nothing wrong? If the lawyer keeps the client that orders them to do something legal but unethical, then the lawyers are completely to blame. If you argue that is how the business works and that is how lawyers keep clients, then you are arguing that most lawyers are indeed unethical. If you are not arguing that, then what excuse do they have for their appalling behavior?

    Hasbro have lost me as a customer and I've spent hundreds on Nerf. (3 stampedes, 1 vulcan, 1 longshot, 1 longstryke, 1 maverick) I've just cancelled my Vortex purchases and they can forget about my patronage of their Elite line. I will also avoid anything made by Hasbro for my children (yes the guns are mine.)
    Its not like Urban Taggers was abusing their IP by copying their designs and making a profit, he was just doing a review on something he bought off the net. To elicit his real location by pretending to offer him products is extremely unethical. Hasbro's actions are sneaky, devious, underhanded and bullying plain and simple. I will not spend my hard earned dollars on a company that is so unprincipled.

      This. Couldn't have put it better myself.

        Mate you nailed it in one go .....
        All fun and happy on the outside but just like a rotten egg inside is, disgusting Megacorp :)

      Well, Lincoln... That's a bit extreme don't you think? Did you read the article at all?
      It's all alleged, this is people connecting dots that may not have been connected in the first place.
      The job of a legal team is to chase things like this down, leaked products etc. They are hired for their ability to do this, it doesn't mean that the company as a whole is unprincipled. Clearly the PR team were keen to help him out with reviewing their products.
      There is also no confirmation that the people spotted near his house were private detectives hired by Hasbro. Nor that the address was provided by the PR team.

      It's all hearsay and I'll take no part in mob mentality based on conjecture. I'll respond to firm fact as is proven with at least one shred of convincing evidence.

      Well, Lincoln... That's a bit extreme don't you think? Did you read the article at all?
      It's all alleged, this is people connecting dots that may not have been connected in the first place.
      The job of a legal team is to chase things like this down, leaked products etc. They are hired for their ability to do this, it doesn't mean that the company as a whole is unprincipled. Clearly the PR team were keen to help him out with reviewing their products.
      There is also no confirmation that the people spotted near his house were private detectives hired by Hasbro. Nor that the address was provided by the PR team.

      It's all hearsay and I'll take no part in mob mentality based on conjecture. I'll respond to firm fact as is proven with at least one shred of convincing evidence.

        Not extreme at all.
        Its my money, I decide where I spend it.
        If I am unhappy with a company for any reason, up to and including myself having an issue with their corporate values, I will not spend money on their products. Currently the onus is on Hasbro to clear up this "misunderstanding".

        PS. the goons allegedly belong to the law firm allegedly hired by Hasbro. They allegedly identified themselves as such.

          Of course, it's your money; your choice. But you seemed to be such a great fan of Nerf beforehand, so it would be a shame to throw it all away based on a misunderstanding.

            Yeesh, you sound like you work for them dude... It would be a "shame" if Lincoln's boycott innocent parties. So far, it sounds like only loser out of the boycott is Hasbro.

            Hasbro sets their lawyers onto a guy but its not Hasbro's fault that they themselves set the laywers onto the guy! Its a misunderstanding. Well, with no apology forthcoming, eff them and their products. They won't see any of my money again.

        well if it walks like a duck and sounds like a duck...

        Hasbro have plenty of PR people that have had plenty of chance to respond to this. Their silence can only be taken as an admission of guilt. At the very least they could have denied these allegations, but instead they say nothing, hoping it will all go away. Your waiting for facts won't happen until this reaches a court, at which stage you WILL start seeing Hasbro's PR arm getting involved, and very quickly working to sweep this under the rug behind all sort of NDA's and out of court settlements. If you wait for facts in circumstances like this where one of the parties is being stubbornly silent, you'll never get them.

    "what allegedly appears to be some rather devious tactics"
    You can miss out the "allegedly" in this case as you are only commenting on the appearance of the tactics as presented. That said, tacking "allegedly" on to a statement offers no protection against legal action in many cases. If I posted "Allegedly, Mr. X was caught parading naked down the high street whilst pleasuring himself with a wombat" then I'd be guilty of libelling Mr.X with or without the "allegedly" (assuming Mr. X hadn't done so of course).

      I'm sure Martyn Tang was an avid fan too.

      But the point is I'm not happy and I am lashing out with the only things I have that will affect these large corporate types who take their customer base for granted. My voice and my money.

      I mean, if you're going to cleverly get someone's address from them by offering them goodies, at least be smart enough to cover your butt and actually deliver what you promise. As far as I've heard, Martyn Tang is still without the promised goods.

      Hasbro/Nerf are not the only makers of soft foam dart guns. I will be sending my business to Lanard and Buzzbee until Hasbro's clears this "misunderstanding" up.

    Hasbro has it in its power to resolve this issue quickly, but not only has it not done so, it's refused to discuss it as well. This signifies a company that is poorly managed.

      They could mitigate half the damage by having their PR put 11 pinpoint sights into a box and ship it. If they dont have the address, they can ask Baker Mckenzie. Pretty sure they have the address

    Disgusting.

    Did they not think that threatening one of their larger fan blogs would not result in negative publicity for them?

    tang needs pheonix wright, because this happened to pokebeach twice & serebii because of image coverage of bw

    It may ne just a gap in my knowledge but what does the picture of the nerf ball have to do with this article?

    Lincoln hit the nail on the head with this one. Hasbro will be losing a sale or two from me as well.

    Boycott Hasbro, and buy only resale items

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