Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Tsuburaya Chaiyo Ultraman Legal Battle

Another childhood hero of mine is Ultraman. Haven't watched any of the newer Ultraman series though. I guess it's a similar reason to why I don't like the later Kamen Riders.

Anyway, there've been this legal battle for about 10 years between a Thai company (Chaiyo) and the original Japanese company (Tsuburaya) on the licensing rights of Ultraman outside of Japan. It's an interesting case for me since I was surrounded by Chaiyo's Ultraman toys while growing up in Thailand. For the entire story of the case, go to this wiki article and another comprehensive site SciFi Japan. The ending to the story is that Chaiyo finally lost the case in Feb 2008 and no longer has the rights to produce Ultraman goods. Below is the article from a Thai newspaper.

Final ruling in Ultraman case

Published on Feb 6, 2008

The Supreme Court yesterday ruled in favour of Tsuburaya Productions of Japan by finding Sompote Saengduenchai was not a co-inventor of Ultraman as he had claimed in a legal battle that started in 1997, said a lawyer for the Japanese firm.

Manu Rakwattanakul, a Baker and McKenzie Thai-land partner representing Tsuburaya Productions, said the Central Intellectual Property Court yesterday read a Supreme Court ruling that said there was no cir-

cumstantial evidence to support claims that Sompote Saengduenchai co-invented the popular television superhero.

The ruling means Sompote and his company, Tsubu-raya Chaiyo, must stop profiteering from Ultraman. Sompote had for many years earned significant revenue from producing Ultraman television shows, colouring books and T-shirts, as well as other merchandise using the character.

However, the Supreme Court told Sompote to end such activities within 30 days from the date of ruling.

The case started in 1997, when Tsuburaya Productions filed a lawsuit against Sompote. He had earlier said that as co-inventor, he was entitled to sell Ultraman products.

The court also ruled the transfer of Ultraman rights to Sompote was invalid, and the decision ends Sompote's bid to continue his enterprise.

Tsuburaya Production lost its case earlier in the First Instance Court but made an appeal and finally won in yesterday's ruling.

Manu said, "It was a long case, involving many documents and witnesses."

He said the decision meant Tsuburaya Productions was the sole copyright owner.

Sompote was ordered to pay Bt10.7 million plus interest at the rate of 7.5 per cent a year starting from December 16, 1997, when the original lawsuit was filed.

The Nation

Looking through a Thai toys forum , I don't see much sympathy for Chaiyo after the verdict came out. If you can read Thai, go to Personally, I don't really care that Chaiyo lost; it seems the letter was a forgery so he deserved to be punished.

I have this cool Ultraman figures set which came free with a fish-snack called TARO (I think it was about 6-7 years ago). There are 8 figures to collect: Ultraman, Ultraman Zoffy, Ultraman Taro, Ultraman Jack, Ultraman Ace, Ultraseven, alien Baltan, and Z-Ton. I wonder if the toys made by Chaiyo would become collector's items since there definitely won't be anymore coming out.

I also read this book written by the son of the Chaiyo'owner titled "Ultraman belongs to who?" which came out last year. I was a bit disappointed coz it was more like his personal autobiography rather than a detailed account of the case. Nonetheless, it was pretty interesting to get the other side of the story and it wasn't too biased as you would expect it to be.

This is the book I was talking about.

Each figure came free with a large whole-sale bag of 6 TARO packets (5 baht), if I remember correctly. Luckily, it was wrapped in clear plastic so it was easy to complete the set.

Produced by Tsuburaya Chaiyo (the full name of the Thai company).

The quality is pretty impressive considering that it's free. The bases were well done as well.



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