RAF strikes deal to make toys for the boys

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The Royal Air Force signed a ground-breaking deal yesterday to produce a range of its own copyright-protected merchandise.

The Royal Air Force signed a ground-breaking deal yesterday to produce a range of its own copyright-protected merchandise.

It is believed to be the first broad-ranging agreement by any of Britain's armed forces to exploit their intellectual property. Geoff Hoon, the Secretary of State for Defence, signed the deal with 4Kids Entertainment International, the overseas operation of a US-owned group specialising in intellectual property.

4Kids has merchandised popular children's products including Pokemon, Ninja Turtles and Yu-Gi-Oh trading cards, a current craze.

The RAF said it would use the MoD's intellectual rights group to protect the trademarks it has now registered. The Air Force has protected its famous roundel or target insignia, which has three rings in red, white and blue. Also registered are the crown and eagle badge and name, the words Royal Air Force and the letters RAF.

Squadron Leader Simon Buckingham said: "We want to raise awareness of the Air Force with the public in an appealing way ... the commercial part of this is almost incidental."

He said research had shown that 47 per cent of the public did not know what RAF meant and most had difficulty differentiating between it and the Army.

The royalties that the RAF will receive from the products will go to the Royal Air Force Museum in Hendon, north London.

The trademark protection does not, however, give the RAF a monopoly on the use of its target symbol on clothing. The Air Force took Arcadia, the retailer, and Ben Sherman, the shirt maker, to court this year over their use of this logo on clothing but lost the case.

On other items, such as toys and jewellery, the RAF has sole rights to the use of its insignia.

Simon Philips, the managing director of 4Kids Entertainment International, which is based in London, said a multifaceted merchandising programme would be developed. He said: "We will seek to encapsulate what the RAF stands for, past and present; the sense of pride and achievement the RAF brings to us."

There will be four strands to the exploitation of the RAF brand: firstly, a mass-market range including computer games, "back to school" items, toys, stationery and clothing. An "authentics" range will seek to replicate the items used by members of the RAF, including sunglasses, penknives, bomber-jackets and watches that can withstand high G-forces. A collectors' programme will produce memorabilia, such as plates and pictures, and a publishing programme will bring out coffee table books and part-works.