All I want for Christmas is the real McCoy

PHOTO: All I want for Christmas is the real McCoy

SINGAPORE - The two bright yellow and oversized plastic toy guns are almost indistinguishable, even on close inspection.

Both shoot out foam darts at high speed and are emblazoned with the same "model" number.

Even their boxes carry a strikingly similar concept - an image of a teenage boy posing with the toy gun.

But there was a key difference - the two toys were at opposite ends of the price scale.

The Raging Fire toy gun was going for $12.90, while the Nerf Barricade, made by American toy giant Hasbro, went for almost three times the price, at $34.90.

Both were being sold side by side at the five FairPrice Xtra hypermarkets across the island.

Other knock-offs being sold at the same stores include King brand toys - a line of miniature construction vehicles such as cranes and dump trucks.

The black triangular King logo is reminiscent of the more expensive Caterpillar brand toys they were being sold next to.

The "clones", however, were taken off the shelves on Dec 7, following media queries on possible trademark infringements.

FairPrice managing director for purchasing, merchandising and international trading Tng Ah Yiam said they were "temporarily recalled" while the store determines if trademark laws have indeed been infringed.

Mr Tng said that the toys in question were sourced "from the open market through various suppliers", and that the retailer's buyers have a code of conduct to ensure suppliers do not misrepresent products or infringe trademark laws.

However, he did not elaborate on what the code was.

A check by The Sunday Times confirmed that the cheaper alternatives were not on sale at other stores such as BHG, Metro, Robinsons, Isetan and Takashimaya.

When contacted, Hasbro said it has always actively defended its range of intellectual properties (IP) against counterfeits, although it declined to comment if it was pursuing this particular case.

IP lawyers, such as Rodyk & Davidson intellectual property and technology practice group head Lee Ai Ming, said that whether a rights holder pursues a legal case depends on how blatant the copying is.

"If a competitor is trying to convey to an unsuspecting public that its product emanates from the original manufacturer when it does not by making it look so much like the original thing, customers who don't examine the fine print may be led to believe it is. That would be a passing-off action," she said.

Consumers out Christmas shopping at the FairPrice Xtra hypermarkets, however, were mixed about seeing the knock-off toys on the shelves.

"You don't need to get brand-name toys for kids below five - they don't recognise the brand anyway," said housewife Jacqueline Yong, 31.

Others, like mother of three Amber Seow, 35, disagreed, saying that as an established retail chain, FairPrice should reject fakes: "With these cheaper brands, you don't know what kind of plastics and metals they use, and we know young kids like to put things in their mouth."