The kiddie tablet wars aren't child's play. In a lawsuit filed today, the makers of the Nabi accuse Toys 'R' Us of sabotaging their product only to copy it for their own Tabeo device. Fuhu Inc is suing Toys 'R' Us for breach of contract, fraud, unfair competition and stealing trade secrets. They're calling for the toy retail giant to cease selling Tabeos, right before the holiday season.
Fuhu says that in October 2011, Toys 'R' Us agreed to become the Nabi's exclusive distributor. But when Christmas rolled around, Toys 'R' Us didn't do as much promotion or put enough Nabis on the shelves as the Fuhu would have liked. Fuhu was confused by the company's unwillingness to back the Nabi more fully, until now. They say Toys 'R' Us deliberately tanked the Nabi so that it could develop its own copy-cat reader, release it the next year and create a must-have holiday present.
"We created a highly innovative product with the Nabi tablet, and cheap knock-offs will only devalue our brand and the children's tablet category as a whole," says Fuhu's president Robb Fujioka. The suit alleges that Toys 'R' Us took many features straight from the Nabi, including its kid-proof, butterfly-shaped edges. Here's what the Nabi and Tabeo look like, side-by-side:
Whether that's a rip-off or not will be up to the U.S. District Court of Southern California to decide. But the kiddie tablet wars are likely to rage on, both in and out of court. The Consumer Electronics Association, tablets are experiencing a huge 83 percent year-over-year growth in sales. 68.5 million units are expected be sold in the U.S. this year. No company has cornered the kid's tablet market yet, so expect Fuhu, Toys 'R' Us and Leapfrog (makers of the LeapPad tablet) to continue battling for children's attention. When it comes to such cute devices, the competition can get ugly.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.