Tsuburaya Production wins Ultraman case
The Intellectual Property Court has ruled in favour of Japan's Tsuburaya Production by ordering Sompote Saengduenchai and his two companies, Tsuburaya Chaiyo and Chaiyo Productions, to stop making a commercial profit from new Ultraman characters.
The three defendants have also been ordered to pay a fine of Bt15 million, plus interest and attorneys' fees.
Sampote Thianthong, managing director of Pro-Link, a public-relations and business-promotion firm hired by Japan's Tsuburaya Production, which owns the Ultraman characters, and Manu Rakwattanakul, an attorney with Baker and McKenzie, told a press conference yesterday that Monday's court ruling meant Sompote and his companies could no longer claim the copyright for new Ultraman characters.
Sompote's companies created new characters based on the original Ultraman models, including Ultraman Millennium, Dark Ultraman and Ultraman Elite, to profit from such events as films and light and sound exhibitions.
The Japanese licence-holder launched the lawsuit in 2004 asking the Intellectual Property Court to order Sompote to stop making a profit from new Ultraman characters. The Ultraman products were in the form of VCDs, stickers, children's clothes and action figures.
Sampote and Manu, however, noted that Sompote might appeal the case. Meanwhile, those who bought licences from Sompote would also have to stop making a profit from the new Ultraman characters.
The Japanese side had filed an earlier case against Sompote in 1997, accusing him of faking an authorisation agreement allowing him to profit from the Ultraman characters.
Tsuburaya Production lost the case in 2000. That case is now under appeal.
Tsuburaya Production, however, launched another lawsuit in 2004 accusing Sompote of violating a 1976 agreement limiting Sompote's copyright to only nine movies made by Sompote in the 1970s, such as "Ultraman and Hanuman".
Sompote later created new Ultraman characters. The Intellectual Property Court earlier this week ruled in favour of the Japanese side, saying the copyright on the nine movies from the 1970s did not include any characters and was separate from the copyright for the use of Ultraman characters.
Ultraman is an action hero based on a popular Japanese television series created in the 1970s.
The court also ruled the three defendants - Sompote, Tsuburaya Chaiyo and Chaiyo Production - were jointly liable for payment of Bt15 million to Tsuburaya Production, plus interest at the rate of 7.5 per cent per annum from the date of the filing of the lawsuit until payment is made in full.
The court also ruled the three defendants were jointly liable for payment of court fees to Tsuburaya Production, plus Bt80,000 in attorneys' fees.
Nitida Aswanipont, The Nation