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Hot Wheels responds to the claims from ICON

Jeff Glucker June 6, 2012 All Things Hoon, Featured 17 Comments

Yesterday we ran a post highlighting what appears to be a pretty scummy issue. Automaker ICON alleges that Hot Wheels ripped off the likeness of its own FJ Series vehicle for a new small-scale toy. We gave you ICON’s side of the story yesterday, which was plucked from ICON’s own newsletter. Now, however, we have Hot Wheels take on the issue.

Alan Hilowitz, Company Spokesman for Hot Wheels, responded to our email inquiry. Mr. Hilowitz states that Hot Wheels has been attempting to communicate with ICON, but there’s been no more communication coming from the automaker’s camp. Initially, the image shown yesterday was part of an artist’s rendering of what Hot Wheels might want to do, with regards to a new model. From there, the toy maker proceeded to license their actual toy based upon the original Toyota FJ, with an agreement forged directly with Toyota.

We’ve got a photo of the actual production toy (shown above, and after the break), and the full response from Alan Hilowitz and Hot Wheels. We know there are two sides to every story, and we’re glad that Hot Wheels took the time to respond. Additionally, we hope that ICON and Hot Wheels can settle the issue. If Hooniverse were called in to arbitrate (you never know…), we would love to see ICON give a thumbs up to a run of Hot Wheels based on the vehicles that the automaker produces.

Click past the break for the full response, and an image of the production vehicle in its packaging.

Mattel respects the intellectual property of others and takes these types of allegations very seriously. We strongly disagree with the allegations from JW Motion and the facts they have presented. We had previously been in dialogue with their attorney for a period of about six months regarding this; however we have not heard from them since our last communication nearly four months ago. The Hot Wheels vehicle referenced is produced under license from the Toyota Motor Corporation by Mattel Inc.

I’d like to also note that the photo you have posted on your site (the yellow vehicle on the right) was an artist’s concept rendering of what the toy might look like and not a photo of the actual toy vehicle produced. That rendering, which was only posted on hotwheels.com for a short period of time, was taken down permanently last fall. I am attaching an image of the actual toy being sold.

Thank you!


Thanks again for the response Alan.

So what do you think Hooniverse; a case of a careless illustrator letting his inspiration for a new model make it to the website, or did Hot Wheels decide to make a deal with Toyota rather than ICON?

[Image courtesy of Hot Wheels]

  • JeffieWasHere

    <img src="http://hooniverse.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/Hot-Wheels-Icon-FJ.jpg&quot; width="600">

    Final product indeed doesn't look like the ICON vehicle.

    • erikgrad

      The roll bars and brush guard are still based directly off ICON product. Good luck to them proving as much. If I were ICON, I wouldn't ask for any 'renumeration', but instead ask for the ICON trademark to be added to future packaging.

      Get the kiddies hooked on ICON products when they're young, so that when they are older and wealthy, they buy the real version of that old ICON toy.


    <img src="http://ads-vs-reality.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/Mc-Donalds-Big-Mac-Size-Comparison.jpg"&gt;

    Proving what you're sold on isn't always what you're sold.

  • JayP2112

    So wait- this was a 2010 model? How long as this been going on?

    I suspected the agreement was made with Toyota… and the designer did the concept sketch from an image he found on Google images, not knowing it was the ICON machine.

  • ICON: Stop throwing a hissy fit. You didn't invent the FJ, offroad lighting, bull bars or roll cages. Yes, an artist clearly glommed onto your picture for a development study and it was released to the public when it shouldn't have been. You've whined about it long enough.

    HOTWHEELS: You obviously used ICON's work as an inspiration. Throw them a bone for the sake of corporate image.

    • Saves me the effort of typing that from my phone on the can. Thanks!

      • Thanks for sharing, Tim…

    • sounds legit.

  • PowerTryp

    I refrained from commenting yesterday because I refuse to jump on a story without having all the information. Now that I see what year the toy was made and that while it does bear a passing resemblance to the ICON FJ it is not a blatant and intentional ripoff.

    Hot Wheels has righted the one wrong that they did have and that was using ICONs image without their consent. As far as I'm concerned, all is right with the world of cars again.

    • jeepjeff

      Yeah. I'm feeling a bit dumb for my comment yesterday. Hopefully the designer got told off for misappropriating the picture. There's a line somewhere between putting stupid captions on cat pictures and 'shopping and posting a picture for a professional design project. ICON doesn't have a case, but the Hotwheels reply to ICON could have been more polite… (But yeah, 24 hour rule… Oof.)

  • Zach

    The image arguably infringes Icon's copyright (as the creator of of the photograph it was based on)… It only infringes the trademark to the extent of the logo, and even then infringement would be based on the context in which it's used. None of the other features are distinctive (or non-functional) enough to serve as legitimate "source identifiers" indicating that the truck is an ICON instead of another FJ. Trademark infringement actions based on something other than a name or a logo are notoriously difficult to win – they involve things like Owens-Corning's pink fiberglass: things that are completely obvious and have nothing to do with the function of the product. ICON's lawyer probably told them to drop it.

  • FlyNdrive

    I think the argument is more over Hot Wheels using ICON's photo (even though photoshopped) and including the trade marked lizard on the grill. Yes, ICON does have a valid point.

    On the other hand the vehicle was not lifted from ICON, but Bill Sander's 1973 SCORE Baja 1000 FJ40. It looked different in the race, but was restored by Bill himself in 2005.

    <img src="http://i185.photobucket.com/albums/x173/FlyNdrive/39bc7963.jpg&quot; border="0" alt="Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos" />

  • Scandinavian Flick

    Nice quick and thorough response from Hot Wheels PR. This is why I was hesitant to pass full judgement yesterday, and appreciate the follow up. Hot Wheels should be more careful in at least giving a nod to source images in the future, but from a blatant copying standpoint, I don't think ICON has a legal leg to stand on.

  • tiberiusẅisë

    In related news, Weird Al Yankovic is suing me for singing "Like a sturgeon, swimming for the very first time…"

  • tiberiusẅisë

    [youtube notKtAgfwDA http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=notKtAgfwDA youtube]

  • Alcology

    On a more positive note, Jun Itai is a pretty fantastic hoon himself and has a nice 510 wagon and 620 pickup over on japanesenostalgiccars.com. Fun reads.

  • If, on the off chance, Hooniverse does get called in to arbitrate, maybe slip the HW rep a 3×5 print of this:

    <img src="http://cache.gawker.com/assets/images/12/2009/12/lol09-uberbird.jpg&quot; width="500" />