Hasbro makes big gains on rival Mattel, pursues toy tech innovations

hasbroHasbro, Inc. (NASDAQ:HAS) of Pawtucket, RI, is one of the largest toy and board game companies in the world. In late July, the corporation posted stronger than expected second quarter earnings, seeing rising sales of Play-Doh and Jurassic World toys which have helped Hasbro to outperform rival toymaker Mattel, Inc. (NASDAQ:MAT) Overall, Hasbro’s preschool product category, which includes Jurassic World and other toys, increased 14 percent compared to 2014’s second quarter. Overall, second quarter revenues decreased by 4 percent year-over-year but reported earnings for the first half of 2015 were up 4 percent compared to 2014’s first half. Other Hasbro sales divisions seeing growth this year include Nerf, Littlest Pet Shop, Star Wars and Magic: The Gathering.

Toy licensing is proving to be a major wealth-building tool for Hasbro as it strives for dominance in the toy industry. Last September, the company was awarded a merchandising contract through Disney Consumer Products to begin manufacturing dolls based on Walt Disney Co. (NYSE:DIS) entertainment properties like Frozen and Beauty and the Beast. Hasbro was able to wrest this contract from the control of Mattel, which may have earned as much as $500 million last year from sales of these toys, mainly on sales of Disney princess characters. Hasbro already had licenses in place to develop toys based upon Disney’s Star Wars, Jurassic World and X-Men franchises, each of which has either released or is soon releasing major motion pictures.

Hasbro portfolio clusterHasbro’s second quarter earnings report indicated that the company’s first half expenses on product development increased by more than $10 million, indicated an increased focus on the development of intellectual properties. Thanks to the patent and trademark portfolio analysis tools from Innography, we can get an interesting view of the IP owned by Hasbro. The text cluster provided here shows that much of Hasbro’s portfolio of 1,772 patents (339 of which are active) are related to toy vehicles, electronic games and ornamental designs, indicating a fair amount of design patents. The company also holds 911 registered trademarks with another 230 pending.



Issued Patents of Note: Projectile Toys and Augmented Reality Laser Tag 

Hasbro hasn’t earned many patents from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office this year, only nine as of January 1st, but they give us a good indication of what kind of entertainment is being developed for America’s children. As we noted, a fair amount of Hasbro R&D focuses on toy cars and we found a couple of recently issued patents which reflect this fact. U.S. Patent No. 8986064, which is titled Modular Track for Model Vehicles, protects a track for model vehicles comprised of a first track section having two pylons and a second track section with two more pylons which are designed to operably interconnect. This innovation is intended to improve both the ease of assembling a toy vehicle track as well as pivoting framethe stability of the finished track. A toy vehicle track having a bendable ramp surface is at the center of U.S. Patent No. 8992282, entitled Pivoting Frame Adjustably Supporting a Flexible Ramp and Methods Thereof. The toy protected here includes a frame that rests on a horizontal surface, two arm members extending upward from the frame, two pivoting assemblies which can adjust the angle of the arm members with respect to the frame, a bendable ramp which is adjustably supported at the frame and can be rotated to adjust the ramp between nearly vertical and nearly horizontal positions. The toy also includes a goal post assembly having lights, sounds and an infrared sensor that activates when a toy vehicle is launched from the bendable lamp and passes through the goal posts.

Projectile gaming is an area that Hasbro may be banking on, suggested by the issue of U.S. Patent No. 9004052, titled Launch Apparatus for Toy Discs with Disc Flip Mechanism. The launch apparatus for toy discs disclosed here includes a housing, a container for storing toy discs, a handle movable between two positions, a disc pocket controlled by the handle to be operated between disc receiving and disc delivery modes and a trigger-activated spring bias launch arm to launch the discs. This projectile device improves upon conventional disc launchers by enabling a change in alignment in a toy disc between its storage phase and when it is prepped for launch. Laser tag is electronic taganother area where Hasbro has been working on developing products, as is evidenced within U.S. Patent No. 8951128, which is titled Device and Method for an Electronic Tag Game. This patent claims a hand held device for an infrared shooting game with multiple participants, the device having a directional infrared transmitter, an omnidirectional field of view receiver and a communications protocol with a specific signature for transmitting IR signals. This laser tag innovation incorporates the use of an accessory, such as a smartphone, to enhance gameplay with augmented reality techniques.

Toy extruders that children often use with clay-like materials such as Play-Doh are discussed within U.S. Patent No. 9017059, which is titled Combined Mixing and Extruding Device. The toy protected by this patent includes a hollow container with a threaded aperture and an outlet, a rod having two rod sections, one of which is threaded, a plunger at an end of the rod, a mixing stick received through the plunger’s surface and a handle on the end of the rod opposite the plunger which can be operated to rotate the plunger and mixing stick in an engaging position. This invention improves upon conventional toy extruders by providing a mechanism through which formable material may be mixed together.

toy figureConstruction toys are another focal area for Hasbro to judge by the issue of U.S. Patent No. 9067147, titled Toy Figure Combiners. The patent claims a large toy construct configured for use with standardized construction building elements having standardized male and female coupling elements, the large toy construct being made up of a plurality of small toy constructs and a combiner assembly set; once assembled, the large toy construct can be broken back down into its constituent parts. The large toy is an action figurine which is constructed from a plurality of smaller action figurines and some of the images attached to the patent depict the ability to dress small figurines in Transformers gear.



Hasbro’s Patent Applications: Safe Projectile Launchers and Toy Model Construction Kits 

With all of Hasbro’s focus on projectile toys, it’s nice to see a couple of patent applications filed recently by the company which seek to establish better safety standards when playing with toys. One technology for ensuring that those playing with projectile toys don’t use sharp or unsafe items as projectiles is safety valvereflected within U.S. Patent Application No. 20150083101, titled Toy Launch Apparatus with Safety Valve. It would protect a toy launch apparatus with a dart receiving structure within a housing, a stationary valve component forming an air passageway in communication with the dart receiving structure and a slidable valve component blocking airflow from the passageway. The safety valve requires children to position a properly designed projectile within the launching apparatus without adding any complexity to the use of the toy launcher. A similar safety technology for toy launchers is at the center of U.S. Patent Application No. 20140326228, titled Toy Launch Apparatus with Safety Latches. The toy launch apparatus of this patent application includes a structure for receiving a projectile, a cocking assembly, a launch spring connected to a structure that engages an inserted projectile and two latches which prevent operation of the cocking assembly if an inserted projectile doesn’t have the correct height or width. This projectile launcher is also designed to prevent the launching of projectiles other than the soft foam circular projectiles designed for the launcher.

secret messagesYoung ones who might thrill at the idea of playing spy games will likely get a rush from the interesting system of play laid out within U.S. Patent Application No. 20150044935, which is titled Toy System for Sending and Reading Secret Messages. This patent application discloses a toy system that includes a foam toy projectile with an elongated cylindrical shape and an outer surface upon which a camouflaged pattern is printed. The projectile can include an encoded message with a decoder structure to understand the message or the projectile can hold a pen if a message is to be written.

More toy vehicle innovations are being pursued by Hasbro, one of which is detailed within the recently issued U.S. Patent No. 20150017870, issued under the title Motorcyclemotorcycle toy Toy Building Element. The patent application would protect a toy vehicle assembly comprised of a motorcycle with a main frame, two front forks, two rear suspensions, a passenger seat portion disposed between the rear suspensions, a base frame connected between the front forks and rear suspensions and two removably insertable wheels. This toy set allows users to build a motorcycle model from a number of component parts which have coupling elements. Other types of toy construction sets which incorporate components offering digital feedback are the focus of U.S. Patent Application No. 20150349545, titled Building Elements with Sonic Actuation. The toy construction system that would be protected involves a control system that generates an electromagnetic signal, a vibration speaker with a coil that receives the electromagnetic signal and a sound producer with a diaphragm mechanically linked with the coil so that they both vibrate when the electromagnetic signal is received. The use of the vibration speaker and other sonic actuation components allows users of this toy construction system to build toy models which have vibrating features.


Hasbro Trademarks: From Plush Dolls to Smartphone Game Apps

With such a strong portfolio of trademarks, we thought it may be interesting to delve into a couple of the marks that Hasbro has been issued in recent months to get a sense of the kind of branded products being developed by the company. Hasbro manufactures a wide array of dolls but it certainly seems to be going in a unique direction in toy doll development according to U.S. Trademark No. 88632487, titled Fatty Bum Bum. This trademark protects the use of the words “Fatty Bum Bum” on dolls, doll accessories, plush toys and vinyl toy figures. U.S. Trademark No. 86641977 protects the use of the standard character mark “Hasbro’s Joy For All” on interactive electronic plush toy animals and accessories. A little bit of a stir was caused by the registration of U.S. Trademark No. 86477325, titled M.A.S.K. – Mobile Armored Strike Kommand. This trademark protects the standard character mark in the title for an extremely broad series of products, from interactive entertainment software like video games, paper goods like comic books and posters, toy merchandise and entertainment services like the production and distribution of motion pictures. The wide array of trademark protections has many people speculating that Hasbro intends to jump on the 30th anniversary of the original release of M.A.S.K. toy figurines.

Technically, U.S. Trademark No. 86632485, titled Magic Duels, has been registered by Wizards of the Coast LLC, but Hasbro is the parent company that also benefits from the sale of Wizards of the Coast products. This trademark protects the standard character mark “Magic Duels” when it is used on downloadable electronic game programs to be used on computers or mobile phones. Fans of the collectible card game Magic: The Gathering, which was cited as a growth sector for Hasbro, should be aware that this likely means that Hasbro is developing an app version of the card game for the smartphone platform.


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