Why should I as a consumer care that a model is licensed? That is a good question. Delta in this case would no doubt argue that since it is their brand and likeness they deserve their cut. In fact that is exactly what they say:
"The Delta Marks serve as unique and famous source identifiers for Delta and its various goods and services. Through Delta’s long and successful efforts, the Delta Marks have earned extensive goodwill, favorable recognition, and a worldwide reputation for high-quality products and services."
Of course to you, the consumer, buying a model airplane does this matter? Do the models themselves not offer Delta a benefit of free advertising and do they offer any protection that you'll get 'high quality products'? I would argue they offer no protection. There is a long history of authorised models being low quality (Herpa's Cathay output and Dragon's Airbus house colours for example).
This clipping the ticket also costs the collector quite a bit of $. The recent TAP L-1011 made by NG Models was nearly $20 more expensive than a standard L-1011 simply due to TAP. Did they do anything to make sure it was a quality product - of course they did not.
Lastly is licensing merely a way to deter competition and squash others. I think it often can be used that way. Of course the counterpoint is unlicensed models give their manufacturers an unfair advantage. In the end it is a complex issue but in my experience licensing benefits not the customer but only serves as a way to squeeze money for something that really has no negative impact on the airline.
There have been multiple airlines that have got tough on licensing before (most recently Cathay and Singapore) and I am sure there will be others again but it is the manner of this particular event that I find rather unpalatable. Read on...
I have heard from multiple sources recently about letters that have been sent out about three major diecast brands - namely NG Models, Inflight and Aeroclassics. Letters have also been sent out to a wide variety of retailers. Only just recently however have I actually seen the letter itself.
The letter is from an Atlanta based law firm, Wellborn & Wallace LLC acting as outside legal counsel for Delta. It is basically a cease and desist letter and makes 6 demands:
There then follows discussion of compensation and possible future licensing.
Additionally retailers were asked to also provide name, address and contact information of private individuals they had sold models to, which is quite incredible really!
The result has been a removal of all unlicensed Delta and Northwest models from retailers, at least in the USA and Canada anyway.
Now whether you care about licensing or not the manner in which this has happened is highly suspicious. Obviously Delta has legal right to try and enforce licensing and no doubt Covid has had an impact on their operations and they are short of cash, but of the many industry veterans that I have spoken with not one believes this is a random event triggered by Delta themselves without outside interference.
In fact, they have all gone so far as to name the third party they believe to be behind it and I have heard some good evidence to back that up. The information that the lawyers have acquired in terms of addresses, contact details and model production is just way too specific to be from Delta or the lawyers.
It is also noticeable which manufacturers are excluded from the list of those being included in this action.
Regardless of whether you agree with or care about licensing the manner in which this is undertaken i.e. indirectly enabling Delta to threaten the very people that stock your own products and the privacy of customers that buy them, as well as the manufacturers, is questionable.
This matter is still ongoing and as I understand it at least some of the manufacturers are attempting negotiations with the lawyers. Hopefully there will be an amicable outcome. It will be interesting to see what happens but I would question whether those involved have any interest in the retailers or collectors, that in the end are the reason the hobby exists, or are just acting purely out of self-interest.
I'm Richard Stretton, an aviation enthusiast and major collector of 400 scale model aircraft. This blog discusses ongoing events in the world of 400 scale.
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