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'Spader-man' prowls Hong Kong's streets

Yes, that's the real Spider-Man in a poster hanging in Hong Kong's Times Square to lure movie viewers  

By Alex Frew McMillan

HONG KONG, China (CNN) -- As Spider-Man ensnares cinema screens in Hong Kong, unofficial merchandise is hitting the streets.

Sets of Spider-Man action figures arrived this week in the downtown district at the heart of Hong Kong's shopping frenzy, just a short walk away from movie theaters.

For HK$39 ($5.00), you get the bad guy and four Spider-Man toys: Spidey regular, Spidey with suction cups, underwater Spidey, and Spidey with metal-look grapplers.

"Ages 3 and Up," the box says. But "Spader-Man" is sure to grab the imagination of any kid, however old.

Yes, look a little closer, innocent Hong Kongers, and be afraid. That's not Spider-man -- it's Spader-man!

'Sometimes they change the spelling a bit'

The box blares "Spader-Man Unmatched," and "Collect All these Spader-Man Figures!" Inside, the merchandise says "Spider-man."

box of toys
Available for HK$39 ($5.00), the box of toys advises "Collect All These Spader-Man Figures!" and supplies five  

"Sometimes they change the spelling a little bit and so on," said Richard Law, spokesman with the Hong Kong Customs & Excise Department's intellectual-property investigation bureau.

"Whether it is infringing their copyright is up to the copyright owner," he said.

For Spider-Man, that's Marvel Characters Inc. Companies like Marvel and Columbia Pictures, the movie's studio, have investigators who sweep the streets for copyright, like customs.

Copyright cases generally land as civil suits. That means serving the alleged counterfeiter, which can be tough. (More on piracy)

It says "Made in China" on the Spader-Man box, but it does not say Marvel.

A surprisingly large hit

With a May 3 debut, Spider-Man: The Movie was the first film to take $100 million over opening weekend. Marvel expects it to gross $800 million worldwide this year.

Hollywood was surprised, and director Sam Raimi brought the hit in for some $125 million. Movie critics praise the film as a dose of decent popcorn fun -- a cartoon-based film filled with rock, stars and pop.

spader-man detail
It's in the details: the box reveals all may not be quite as meets the eye  

Following it into the movie theaters is "Star Wars: Episode II," on global release Thursday. That means another marketing blitz, and the pirates will be ready to rip it off.

Spider-Man merchandise is for sale everywhere, through the official Web site, from Sony. Marvel says there are licenses "for every conceivable product category."

So every thief, robber, pirate and all-around bad guy knows to look out for Spider-Man. But you have to have eyes in the back of your head.

Watch out. Here comes the ... Spader-Man.


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