Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Not Just a Nerf War about Toy Guns: Crazybear calls it

The Pinpoint Sight. Epic.

Hiya – Pocket here.  Well.. WOW.

To say that I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed is an understatement.  To the messages of support and sympathy from all over the world – a big thank you.  It's actually been a very stressful time for me and your thoughts mean a lot. What I'd really love to do is get back to doing what I enjoy- scouring the web for news, bringing out reviews and basically slamming the community with everything toy blaster that I can find- but I'm still a lil unsure atm till I can get this all sorted.

I've received a lot of moral support from different people since receiving the first letter from Baker & McKenzie.  Even though the post after the jump is pretty long involved and a bit deep (what do you call it, TL;DR !) – I'm going to post it because it's a rather interesting commentary on the whole situation. It's from a reader who calls themselves "crazybear" and they have given me a lot of support these last few weeks.  Crazybear calls it as they see it, so if you've got the time and inclination- it's a great read.

Thanks again folks.

Not Just a Nerf War about Toy Guns

I've been following the whole urban taggers/Hasbro/Baker & Mckenzie situation very closely and with great interest.  I don't play with Nerf, don't think I've ever owned a Nerf product – sorry IP lawyers, should that be "NERF"?  Like many, I'm a little perplexed about what seems to be a massive conflagration over what is essentially - a toy gun ...
Since the original Crikey article was published on Tuesday (, some comments from around the Net have really amused me:

"The fear here is that some third party might be running Nerf guns to North Korea or Pakistan, or heaven forbid, one of the big kids at Birch Elementary in Broomfield, CO!"


"In related news, Hasbro representatives burst into the bedroom of Tiffany Mae Walters and confiscated her My Little Pony collection after word leaked out that she was playing with them wrong."


"Hasbro will send their goons after taobao in China, taobao will accidentally kill one of them, this will enrage the US and create an international incident, China will refuse cooperation in punishing the killer, the US will threaten China, China will preemptively strike our allies, the US will retaliate resulting in full scale war.  World War 3 starts because some Australian guy was buying Nerf guns online. Archduke Ferdinand ain’t got shit on Martyn Yang."

and one dear to my own heart:

"So glad the internet gives people a fighting chance at stopping this kind of bullying."

I am bemused that not only has Baker & McKenzie become a hash tag on twitter and a tag on a variety of news sites – so has the partner Robert Arnold himself.  The incident even has the My Little Pony fans running scared.

All jokes aside, I do feel quite strongly about what I have read.  I think what bothers a lot of people in terms of what happened to urban taggers is that the approach adopted by Hasbro and Baker & McKenzie just seemed wrong given the circumstances.

Even if you talk to lawyers, you'll receive a widely disparate range of opinions.  Some believe that the Baker & McKenzie's actions may have been a little ill-advised (i.e. it would have been better to go letter, email, email further email instead of letter, email, email goon squad) – others believe that not only was it right, they should have gone in harder – how dare a jumped up little blogger from Canberra dare to give cheek to a multi-national corporation and the partner of a global law firm??  Who does he think he is?  Let us squash him like a bug.

To be honest, it's probably not fair to tar all partners of the firm with the same brush – I'm sure other partners even within the same organisation might have taken a different approach to the same fact scenario.  In this case, I think what happened was unfortunate judgment being exercised by Hasbro's internal legal team, Hasbro's publicity team and Hasbro's external lawyers.  I know of a number of respectable senior partners who will go in hard and rain down absolute and total hell on the heads of wrong-doers and if you're doing the wrong thing, they're probably justified.

The issue is having the finesse, judgment and commercial nous to assess a situation and come up with a reasonable approach based on the individual facts.  These days, lawyers can't just be black letter lawyers wearing jackboots and enforcing the law with an iron fist in every instance.  Especially in the day and age of the social networking, many sophisticated and discerning clients expect their law firms to have a greater understanding of consequences of their actions and working in a way which protects the commercial/PR as well as legal interests of the client.

Let's summarise the current situation.

1. There was a leak of confidential information/products/images.  This leak was committed by someone who probably had a direct relationship with Hasbro and was obliged to keep such things confidential.

2.  This image was leaked onto the Internet by that person.  It's at this point that the first 'breach' occurs.    The wrongdoing is committed by the leaker at this point.

3.  The information then floats around on the Internet until it gets to a blogger like urban taggers, whether by anonymous email tip-off or by his own search efforts.  Bloggers and other websites know that the products in question haven't been released in Australia yet but given that the information is widely available out there on the Internet, figure that there's no harm in publishing it.

This is where things get a bit murky – arguably, information doesn't necessarily lose its confidential nature just because it's leaked been onto one site on the Internet for a short period of time.  I think we saw that with wikileaks and the Barclays Bank vs Guardian incidents.  That being said, if the information's been out there long enough and has been seen by enough people – can be hard to say it's still confidential.  So, let's call point 3 a line-ball issue and say that Hasbro/Baker & McKenzie had the right to send a nice letter.

4.  I'll bundle a few steps in here.  Hasbro's product team (Team Hasbro) sends what seems to be a nice letter asking for the blogger's address to send some merchandise for the blogger to use to further promote Hasbro.  This is the first time the blogger has ever heard from Hasbro so he's naturally delighted and the emails from Hasbro marketing look genuine and look as though Hasbro knows of the blog and approve of it.  The blogger then gets a letter from the lawyers (Team Baker).

OK, the Team Hasbro look kind of bad here but I suppose that was the only way they thought they'd get the address.  Team Baker actually don't look too bad at this point – the letter is polite, even friendly, asking the blogger to take down the images and asks for information about the source of the images.  So at this point, it's thumbs down to Team Hasbro but Thumbs Up to Team Baker.

5.  The blogger ponders his options.  It's all very disappointing but given that he's not in the game to annoy Hasbro, which produces the product he has been so enthusiastic about – he sends a polite email to the partner saying that the images are already out there, but he's taken down the images.  He says he doesn't have the information for the source anymore (could be anywhere really – this is a popular blog in Nerf circles) and to be honest, he wouldn't tell anyway – BUT he wants to be helpful so he points the law firm in the direction of how to search for those images using Google.  He also takes down the blog temporarily as he considers his next options.  He thinks it's over for now but the law partner then emails back saying he wants to talk more.

So at this point, we have thumbs up for blogger (compliant and helpful – also giving free Internet searching advice) but a half-thumbs down for Team Baker.  I only give him a half thumbs down because at this stage, we don't know what he wants to talk about – it's possible he wants to push more (that would be a full thumbs down) but it's possible he wants to talk about Nerf and the Internet in general (thumbs up because a thirst for knowledge in anyone should always applauded and encouraged).

6.  At this point, Team Hasbro emails the blogger again offering the free merchandise yet again and the blogger is perplexed (they already have his address so is this a real offer this time??) so he writes to Team Baker explaining that there's no point talking anymore because these are not the droids you're looking for and seriously, he does not have the information but he gives them Internet tips again.  While he is at it, he asks if he's going to actually get free Nerf stuff this time or is he just going to get another free letter of demand/cease and desist letter (O poor Pocket, little do you know what's going to happen next).  So at point 6 we give a thumbs down to Team Hasbro (for being confusing and sending mixed messages in a best case scenario and being misleading in a worst case scenario) and a thumbs up to the blogger who really just wants to be left alone, especially given that the blog is offline.

7.  Team Baker then writes again and it turns out that they're actually interested in scoops regarding "Vortex Nitron" and "Rayven" that were reviewed by the blogger the year before.  They want the blogger to sing like a bird and ask him to reconsider and talk to them.  They explain that they know nothing about Team Hasbro's latest email, claim that Team Hasbro actually admire what you the blogger does with his "blogsite" and has no wish to shut him down.   So … we have a thumbs down for Team Baker here for suddenly coming up with new questions or actually asking the questions they wanted to ask at the beginning – either they are disorganised or not up front so let's give them two thumbs down for that one.

They don't know about the Team Hasbro email so we give them another thumbs down for having poor client communication.  They get a thumb and a half up though for praising the blog and for being polite about asking him to reconsider discussing the matter with them.  They get half a thumbs down for calling it a "blog site" and another half a thumbs down for lacking Internet savvy.  I've lost track of how many thumbs were given there but in any case, I need more thumbs.

8.  Blogger is irritated by all of the emails from Team Baker and Team Hasbro, writes a response but gets distracted by real life and forgets to send his response.  Blogger gets half a thumbs down for not replying to Team Baker immediately but we will be gentle with him given that blogging is just a hobby and he has real life outside of nerf.  It's a half-hearted half thumbs down.

9.  Blogger returns home on a Sunday afternoon to learn from the neighbours that some goons have been hanging outside the apartment complex.  To his shock, the goon squad (Team Goon Squad) have been hanging around waiting for him!  Team Goon Squad say they're from Team Bakers, they want him to disclose all.  They want to record the conversation.  Blogger is flabbergasted and instead of slamming the door shut, he talks to them and teaches them how to use taobao and ebay.  Team Goon Squad claim that he should know the identity of nerf suppliers if he bought off ebay and taobao.   Blogger explains that this is the Internet.  Goon Squad go away saying that he's going to hear from Team Baker again.  Team Hasbro get a bunch of thumbs down and my big toes, too for this.  First "nice" email from Team Hasbro is followed by a letter from Team Baker, second "nice" email from Team Hasbro is followed by a personal visit by Team Goon Squad.

Team Baker get an equal number of thumbs down for not just sending a follow up email instead of sending Team Goon Squad.  Team Baker gets more thumbs down for not realising early on in the piece that this is a false lead and calling off the hounds.  It was all well and good if urban taggers was the only source of information – you could understand why Team Baker came after him, but once it became clear he was not the source or even connected in any way to the sources – they should have dropped the line of inquiry at that point.  They also get a thumbs down for still lacking net-savvy.  I don't care how old or technophobic you are, if you're an IP lawyer, you should know all about and be all over ebay, taobao and other similar sites.  Blogger gets a thumbs down for being freaked out and agreeing to talk to Team Goon Squad when he was within his rights to slam the door and tell them to go away. He gets a thumbs up though for trying to be helpful and teaching them that you can buy things on the Internet.

10.  Blogger sends frustrated email to Team Baker trying to end the matter once and for all, he then emails Team Hasbro and other members of Team Baker saying: "please leave me alone".  Then because he really has nowhere else to turn because he can't seem to make Team Baker understand what he is saying – he posts everything to the blog – including any original typos in his emails. In his circumstances, he felt bullied and intimidated and this was his only course of action left.  Thumbs up to blogger here.  Many other bloggers would have posted the letter of demand as soon as they got it, he tried to resolve it amicably.  Again thumbs up for trying to bridge the apparent poor internal communications between Team Baker and Team Hasbro.  Half thumbs down for being a bit cheeky and telling the Team Baker partner he needs to learn Chinese but maybe thumbs up, too because according to Wikipedia, Mandarin Chinese is spoken by more than 1025 million speakers throughout the world and a grasp of this language would be invaluable for anyone really.

So at the end of the day – possibly good motives, wrong, overly heavy-handed approach.  There were other ways to resolve this situation and the way it was done looks just like bullying, plain and simple. As mentioned above, for many lawyers, the Goon Squad tactic is entirely defensible and normal - but they really have to see how it will be perceived by non-lawyers or ordinary people.

In terms of lessons learned, I guess we just need to look at the growing list of links below:


  1. Pretty good read. What really bothers me is that Hasbro outright lied to you instead of just being forward and asking for where you got your info. I am debating not buying NERF for a while due to this whole thing.

    1. I'm probably not buying nerf stuff out of boredom wiht their product line this year, but I can see what you are saying, but honestly, we are a very small percnetage of their market, and little kids won't give a shit about all this "adult politicing".

  2. Thinking about it, maybe Hasbro wanted to make an example of you. You're large enough to have an effect on the community, but small enough that they won't be alienating too large a section of their fanbase.

    1. Well if that was the case, they've certainly alienated that particular section of their fanbase that was larger than they anticipated...

  3. So what you're saying is... we're not getting Pinpoint sights? lol, I'm obviously kidding. That's not even a factor anymore.

    Great article by crazybear. Fair, balanced, and not the Fox Slogan. Hope everything pans out in a positive way for you, Pocket. REGARDLESS of what happens to UT or Nerf or whatever, I just hope there's a positive resolve for you coming up quickly.

  4. ^I completely agree with Natster43. Just posted this on Nerf's facebook page:
    I have been a big fan of Nerf for a very long time. The products are always a quality that other brands can't match up to. However, I will not be purchasing any more products from Hasbro because of what happened to Urban Taggers. Goodbye, Hasbro. From now on, I will be taking my business elsewhere.

  5. I encourage anyone seriously concerned with this issue to read the whole article: don't just scroll down here and see what people have said; put that TL;DR crap in the recycling bin for ten minutes and READ it!

    Although I must admit here that the only point I disagree on is "OK, the Team Hasbro look kind of bad here but I suppose that was the only way they thought they'd get the address" - it was a cruel DECEPTION to get what they wanted. Surely there must have been some other way which was either more honest, or at least a direct/blunt approach that would have saved a majority of this drama from transpiring.

    I also stoicly believe that *although to a point, it was fair enough to ask politely to take said leaked information down, to which Pocket complied and furthermore tried to be helpful about it* - the fact is the way the entire scenario has been handled from start to (the bitter) finish is unnacceptable.

    In addition, they should be working on where the leak was COMING from - not *punishing and interrogating* the ones who found it. Even after trying to look at it from Hasbro's and the lawyer's perspective of 'trying to protect their intellectual property / product secrets / client's best interests', the fact that even after Pocket's responses and actions (which are all fair and understandable under the situation forced upon) they STILL came back for more in such a bullying method, is unprofessional and unforgivable.

    All this over getting a sneak peek at a few new plastic toy guns... Anyone computer literate enough to copy-paste a link and say "hey guys, look what I found on the internet!" should now be very afraid, lest they reattempt some new variation of SOPA...

  6. I look at this whole thing not from a legal point of view but just on why this all happened in the first place. Urban Taggers was a source of info for Nerf lovers that was so successful BECAUSE Hasbro were out of touch with their audiences, especially those outside of America.

    If I ever wanted to know something about Nerf, I knew it would be on Urban Taggers. Not Nerf's crap Facebook page or their outdated website, but a blog that ran out of Australia of all places in a city I'd never heard of before. Urban Taggers took the time to write their content, take their photos, and get it out there and promoted the crap out of Nerf in a way Hasbro have never ever done. Nerf never cared about the international market in the way Urban Taggers did.

    This shouldn't be about lawyers and corporations. It's about a fan who found a massive gap in the market and filled it. Not from a greed business sense (and there are no google banner ads anywhere) but because he seemed to want to make a difference to the nerf community. I only wish Pocket lived in my country and then maybe WE would get the Nerf variety I'm seeing Australia now get.

  7. I know a LOT of readers including myself have this deep down WANT that Hasbro aren't at fault and genuinely meant to give Pocket the Pinpoint Sights and the lawyers just got mixed up and confused.

    But the above does make a lot of sense. Even if my wish was true and Hasbro DIDN'T intend to mislead Pocket just to obtain his address, the lack of communication between Hasbro and the Attorneys is unforgivable.

    But I have to admit it does sound fishy. Hasbro want to offer a Pinpoint Sights and have them around the office? What? These puppies have been discontinued for ages!

    But then ok, we can cut them slack because they ARE available in Singapore as a giveaway so MAYBE they were available in Australia too. Although they said they had them for a gift with purchase but "havent used them anywhere yet". What?

    Except the Hasbro person they didn't make any suggestion on how Pocket should use these giveaways, they were just keen for the address. Which sounds suspect.

    They were supposed to be "in the office" but then the other guy who was to send them had to "order" them.

    The other thing is the attorney's conduct. I'm no lawyer myself but it seems incredibly excessive to send "representatives" to someone's house after only ONE failed email correspondence. What if Pocket was 12 years old? Imagine how that would have played out.

    I think Hasbro will try to say "We were wanting to work with Urban Taggers and give them the pinpoint sights, had them ordered but then Urban Taggers turned on us and went public".

    They'll probably try to say the lawyers were trying to just be nice and did not mean to go after Pocket, but just ask him questions on how he obtained access to the unreleased blasters.

    But as said, ordinary people freak out when lawyers are brought into the mix. And lawyers don't alone- Hasbro would have had to approve their conduct. Hell, they'd have to even pay for it.

    In any case, Hasbro DID the wrong thing. Baker and McKenzie DID the wrong thing. Whatever slant they want to bring to the table tomorrow, next week or next month, there's too much there to suggest they DIDN'T bully an amateur blogger fan and think they would get away with it.

  8. You guys have too much time on your hands. You're all TL;DR :-P

  9. To Mr Crochetty Anonymous with the Short Attention Span When Reading - people are entitled to write about/read things that interest them. You don't have to stick around and read! :)

  10. And so it begins, the great s**t storm of our time.

  11. I can understand Hasbro trying to protect info, and that seems fine to me. But sending in a goon squad and threatening a fan site/blog owner, THAT is just too much... this is outright ridiculous and if I were Pocket... Well, Hasbro lawyers would be seeing artificial lights in a courtroom for a while with me sitting across the room. But that's just me... Glad to see the blog is back! Now to go rant on Nerf's Facebook page :) Have a nice day everyone!

  12. For their confidential information to leak out, it is either an inside job or hacker. Instead of doing proper investigation, they resorted to lying, hassessment and intimidation.

    This is really a cheap shot from Hasbro. They definately turned off many "fans" and hope they felt the heat.

    I think fans of other Hasbro products will be turned off too.I am one of them. Though not a fan of NERF but will boycott their Transformers product for now.

    - Edwin (Singapore)

  13. Oh man, this is great! As everybody keeps circulating the story, Hasbro looks less and less like a company that (totally within their legal right) asked someone to take down pictures but screwed up and terrorized that someone, to becoming a massive company of dicks, saying "Herp derp, take down yur fansite NAO!!!1". I think that the only toy company that isn't a bunch of arses is Lego. They actually seem to care about their fanbase, and when someone posts images that weren't supposed to be released yet, they get quietly taken down, and then replaced a few days later with higher quality ones. Everybody, support Buzz Bee! They have some new blasters that AREN'T reshells or overpriced.

  14. Good summary by Crazy Bear.

    Let me get this out of the way before I continue: Pocket, you have my support.

    But I feel like I can't help worth a damn, and that's frustrating. If this were the United States, it would be a completely different story. You'd probably be getting legal advice (of varying quality of course) from a lot of people here. You'd have a number of immediate legal actions you could take right away. General rule of thumb over here is that the minute that letter arrived, the only response would have been: "Any other correspondence from this point forward will be handled through my attorney." Thugs at your door? They don't do that here if they can help it; Castle Doctrine is too risky to play with.

    However, Hasbro using trickery to get your address, apparently not uncommon at all here. Particularly when it comes to debt collectors. The funny thing is that you might very well have received those Pinpoint Sights had you responded, but it would have been just to cover themselves and keep that as being admissible evidence should you have decided to take counter-legal action; a small price to pay to them.

    But that other e-mail from Hasbro to reconfirm the address gives some interesting implications, including that there seems to be some major disconnect between the law firm and the company. If there wasn't some attempt at cover, then it might be that a fair few sections of the company genuinely want to give you free stuff. The other thing I find interesting is where the legal action is actually originating from: Is it solely from Hasbro AU, or does Hasbro US actually have a say? There might be no knowledge of this actually happening at the head offices of Hasbro here in the United States.

    But nonetheless...

    I'd hate to sound like a mother of sorts, given that much of the drama seems to be behind us now, but in the future, should something like this arise, you really should jump to get legal representation as soon as that first letter hits your doorstep. It sucks given that this is a hobby and it should be mundane, but when it comes down to any legal action a lawyer should be the first thing on your mind.

    Actually, what I find really disturbing is that in the majority of posts here, there's been no suggestion of such a course of action...

    Oh, and yes, this story will hopefully be spreading through the MLP community like wildfire, I'll try to make sure of it. We've had some issues in the past with Hasbro, but they've mostly been simple cease-and-desists. But given that we tend to get our hands on merchandise a little early as well, we could be getting the same visits from letters pretending to be giveaways. Getting another side of the Hasbro market to back you isn't a bad idea in the end, I figure.

    Best of luck from us in Colorado, Pocket.

    - Berkut

  15. Even if the request for your address to send the pinpoint sights was completely separate from the lawyers investigating product leaks- given the ever coincidental timing of it all- I think anyone would put two and two together and assume it was a ploy. Offered free stuff if you provide address, then get letter from lawyers to said address. Coincidences CAN happen though. Even the most unlikely weird ones.

    That's not the only deception. The lawyer wrote a letter that may have been "friendly" by those in the legal world, but I read it and it sounded pretty freaky to me. Big words of "UNAUTHORISED USE OF HASBRO IMAGES" or of the like and the demand to take them down and hand over the details of the source. I reckon anyone who got something like this would feel a little unsettled.

    The thing is, it seems Pocket DID what he was told. He complied with exactly what he letter asked of him.

    The fact the lawyer came after him again and said it wasn't enough and he wanted the sources of the blasters from past reviews (Rayven and Nitron) is the issue I have. He didn't mention this in the first post. Again it was that strange practice of sending out one thing and then really wanting it for something else. The Rampage was just an image that Pocket found on the internet (that we can all find). It seems the lawyer made the assumption that Pocket must have all of this info and access to buy these products. The lawyer was right. We ALL do- it's called the internet.

    When the lawyer didn't get his response to ONE email, instead of, oh I don't know, trying again, he decided to send private investigators out. So what this is standard practice. You wonder why people hate lawyers, and more so you wonder why Pocket would be suitably unsettled again.

    I think what's panning out here is everyone believes Hasbro has a right to investigate their leaks and control product releases. But what everyone is so upset about is HOW Hasbro did this and the use of excessive bully tactics against, of all people, one of their biggest fans and promoters of their product. A simple direct email explaining the situation and even sorting out some form of agreement with Urban Taggers would have easily cost everyone so much less in time, money and resources.

    It also shows how out of touch Hasbro are with their customer base, and how little they understand about the internet and new media marketing.

    I think if ANY fan had a chance to buy the latest and greatest, they would.

  16. I don't know any lawyer who would think the B&M approach advisable, let alone a good idea. It was stupid both legally and commercially, especially for a firm that wants to play in the consumer goods space.

  17. I just bought a NERF Sharpshot today. I will have to consider my future NERF purchases.

  18. Nice read dude, next time I'll lend you my thumbs so that we don't miss count :) cheers

  19. On Nerfipedia it says:

    Some time in March 2012, Urban Taggers was forced to shut down temporarily(?) by Hasbro Lawyers for getting sneak peeks of upcoming blasters. It is unknown if Urban Taggers would be allowed back on the Internet.

    Also the link to the Nerfipedia page: