Jan 4, 2012

One Hong Kong businessman was so enamored with Steve Jobs that he spent years developing the late Apple CEO's likeness into an action figure.

Tandy Cheung and his firm, In icons, started featuring the 12-inch Steve Jobs doll on its website for $99.99, and is unfazed by Internet murmurs that Apple, Inc. or Jobs' estate could take legal action to prevent the doll's release.

"Apple can do anything they like," Cheung said. "I will not stop, we already started production."

Pre-orders for the action figure are available now, but its wide release in stores and online is slated for late February.

"I love [Jobs] very much and I think there are a lot of people like me who want to have his action figure," Cheung said.

While he said he was aware Apple had stopped other companies from making Steve Jobs dolls in the past, Cheung said he is "not sure" if his action figure will cause Apple to take legal action. But, Cheung said, he spoke with several lawyers in Hong Kong who told him he wasn't in violation as long as he doesn't include any Apple products with the figure.

"Steve Jobs is not an actor, he's just a celebrity... There is no copyright protection for a normal person," Cheung said. "Steve Jobs is not a product... so I don't think Apple has the copyright of him."

In the past, Apple has been ruthless in protecting Steve Jobs' image, but this was when the Apple CEO was still alive -- Jobs succumbed to pancreatic cancer Oct. 5 at age 56.

Lawrence Townsend, an attorney with the San Francisco-based intellectual property firm, Owen, Wickersham and Erickson, said that Cheung's action figure is in, "clear violation of the right of publicity."

Rights of publicity is a state-based law that includes the protection of an individual's identity, voice, image, photograph or signature from being used commercially without consent. After a person dies, those rights are usually transferred to that person's family or estate in a successor-in-interest claim.

California, the state where Jobs lived with his family and Apple, Inc., is headquartered, passed the Celebrity Rights Act in 1985, which protects a celebrity's personality rights up to 70 years after his or her death.

"[Jobs' estate] has every right to enforce this," Townsend said. "I expect there will be a lawsuit to follow."
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