EDITOR'S COMMENT: Identity crisis

With news of Manchester United's Bastian Schweinsteiger and Fox News' Harris Faulkner both lobbying for the removal of toys bearing their likeness from the market, Robert Hutchins asks what this could mean to the toy inventor.
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Imagine waking up one morning to find that your face had been plastered all over a range of Hong Kong made Nazi action figures.

The scenario is preposterous enough to sound like the plot of a never-to-be aired episode of Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror.

That, or in the very least, an early installment of Only Fools and Horses.

But for Manchester United midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger, this incredible (in the very literal sense) situation has become an all too real and horrific truth.

Days ahead of Halloween, it was reported earlier this week that having discovered a collection of Nazi dolls bearing an uncanny resemblance to the German football player, Schweinsteiger was taking steps to have the action figures removed from the market.

At the heart of the fiasco is Hong Kong toy firm Dragon in Dream, who maintains that the likeness of the £78 doll to the 31-year-old midfielder is nothing but “pure coincidence”.

Right down to the fact that the figure itself is called Bastian...

If by now the Hong Kong-based manufacturer believed it hadn’t ruffled enough feathers, it went on to entice further outrage from the German population when it declared “the figure is based on a typical German. We believe that all Germans look like that.”

Of course, freak ‘coincidences’ of this ilk aren’t just reserved for the far flung corners of the East as this week has also found Hasbro at the centre of an identity crises.

Earlier this year, Fox News anchor, Harris Faulkner took particular grievance to Hasbro’s range of Pet Pawsabilities collectables with one creature in particular the focus of her dismay, a three-centimeter hamster named Harris Faulkner.

Faulkner (the human) filed a lawsuit against the company to the tune of $5m and for the swift removal of Faulkner (the hamster) from the toy aisles.

Unlike the Schweinsteiger case however, and according to Hasbro – who this week has asked the US District Court to dismiss the case – a side-by-side comparison reveals that the pair bear ‘absolutely no resemblance.’

In a 37-page document, Hasbro goes on to point out that Fox News’ anchor Faulkner, lacks the defining features of the hamster toy, namely a white muzzle and pink nose.

So while media lawyer Ulrich Amelung has told German newspapers that Schweinsteiger has strong legal grounds on which to stop the Nazi doll from being sold, because, ‘every person has the right to their own image,’ elsewhere it is hoped that when it comes to rodents, the law knows where to draw the line.

But unless you have happened to discover a toy that looks strangely familiar, or wondered why so many of the characters in a Guess Who? look like your Uncle Kevin, what does this all mean to the humble toy inventor?

Well, very little for now, we imagine. But these might just prove interesting stories to follow for your own future reference should you ever find one of the Chuckle Brothers banging on your door, asking why they've appear in your line up of playground collectables.

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