Special seventh birthday commemorative report by resident Spacexpert Paul Vreede
In January 1970, Multiple Toymakers (re-packager of Triang Spacex toys for the US and Japan) ran a double-page spread in Toys and Novelties trade magazine.
Seen on this blog before, the right-hand page extols the earnings possible by stocking their Golden Astronaut range. The left-hand page however, is a stern warning to other manufacturers/re-packagers about copying the toy designs and trademarks.
The page goes on to say that effective legal action had already been taken in Hong Kong, which must've been ground-breaking at a time that everybody was happily copying everybody else.
This piqued my curiosity, but sadly, time spent searching the internet for likely sources of ancient court records in Hong Kong came to naught (if any readers in Hong Kong can advise me on this then I'm all ears!).
From other research I can say that these actions will have happened between late November 1969 (Design Registrations for Stage 1 Spacex toys being granted in the UK on 19 November) and early January 1970 (by which time advertisements had to be ready for inclusion in the trade magazine).
Despite this lack of written records, over time the "fossil record" of surviving toys has provided a couple of obvious clues about two of the defendants in these cases.
As Bill Bulloch discovered, one of these was LP, who did supply Triang with the golden astronaut figures and possibly some other plated parts, but who also made and sold smaller copies of the Spacex Prospector and Helicopter P3.
The evidence is in the pictures below, where the LP version was changed to have horizontal fins added to its body, while the tail had a part removed between engine and cockpit and the body lost its pointed rear.
(Presumably the LP Prospector version wasn't an issue because Triang didn't have a registered design for this toy; the larger Project Sword design already having been registered by Tai Hing (as discovered by Paul Woods). Or maybe the LP version was deemed sufficiently distinct from the Spacex version to not have to be changed.)
The main culprit however was clearly the Roxy Plastic Factory Ltd of Kowloon, Hong Kong, who produced a series of six* space toys, five of which were based on Spacex designs and which moreover, were sold on triple-toy blister cards for their obviously infringing Golden Astronaut Space Explorer series, also featuring blurbs that were close to those on Multiple Toymakers packaging. (The cards shown below were found in the Netherlands and Switzerland, but this series must also have been sold in the US for Miner Industries (owner of MT) to sue Roxy).
Comparing both cards and contents shows the consequences of Roxy's defeat in court. Two of the ground vehicles have different wheels (plus a differently-shaped base for the Prospector copy), and the Roxy copy of the Nuclear Freighter had its wings moved to the rear with a straight leading edge replacing the curved one also seen on the Spacex original. The other two Spacex copies will presumably have been deemed sufficiently distinct to not be affected.
The triple cards had to be provided with new blisters to accomodate these changes, and also lost the Golden Astronaut text as well as the blurbs. What is very surprising is that the Space Explorers name remains, being as it is a complete rip-off of Triang's original Spacex logo. This would indicate Triang didn't act as a co-claimant in the court case, with Miner alone protecting its own brand name and interests.
One of the packs does have the new version of the toys sitting on the old version of the card. I think Roxy used up old stocks of the original cards which were then sent to Europe, where Multiple Toymakers products weren't available and where, therefore, the offending texts on the card weren't an issue.
As an end result, it's clear Miner wasn't able to stop Roxy altogether in offering competing toys (I'd be so curious to read the court records after all, to know what Miner's actual demands may have been), but they did inflict some substantial cost on their rival in having the latter change their tooling and probably stop production for a while as well.
It would be very nice to find the court records after all, because next to the point above these will not only tell us who else may have been sued, but also provide identification of the companies involved (which would be excellent for LP, for whom I haven't been able to find any background information whatsoever).
[* note: I believe Roxy only made six toys because the triple cards all carry the stock number 345678, which nicely coincides with the last digits of the individual numbers found moulded on each toy. Roxy and UK distributor Clifford also sold these toys as the Moon Traffic series, where the card design wasn't an infringement but where both early and late versions of the affected toys have been found MOC].