Inside the Pentagon reports that "your local hobby shop has recently had to charge little Timmy 40 cents extra to purchase an $8 toy model kit with the likeness of a U.S. military vehicle, according to the Hobby Manufacturers Association (HMA)."
Timmy has had pay up since defense contractors began pressuring scale-model manufacturers and distributors to pay licensing fees in order to use the designation or likeness of the life-sized military vehicles, HMA says.
The contractors have sought 2 to 8 percent of the costs of each unit from toy manufacturers, according to the association. This expense, which amounts to an increased cost of $6,000 for 15,000 units, is passed on to the consumer, driving down demand and putting small hobby shops in jeopardy, the association argues on its Web site.
So Rep. Rob Andrews (D-NJ) included a provision in the House version of the fiscal year 2008 defense authorization bill requiring the Pentagon to license trademarks, service marks, certification marks, and collective marks relating to military designations and likenesses of U.S. weapon systems to any qualifying company upon request.
“The fee charged for a license would be no more than required to cover the cost to the government, and the license would be non-exclusive,” the bill states.
The Pentagon, however, “strongly opposes” Andrews’ provision, devoting an entire page to the issue in its latest authorization appeals package. Such appeals are typically reserved for last-ditch efforts to save big DOD programs from funding cuts.
DOD “can envision no valid reason why a trademark owner should ever be compelled to allow another entity to use that intellectual property, even for reasonable license fees,” the appeal says.
The HMA, however, can envision several reasons.
One is that model kits can serve as a recruitment tool and free advertising for DOD. Another is that military designations are determined by a Pentagon system and the vehicles’ designs are funded by taxpayers.
While that last paragraph is important, more generally what the hell is Andrews thinking? Aren’t there better things to do with his and his staff’s time?