Godzilla's Legal Defenders

by Armand Vaquer

Above, former Toho-L.A. General Manager Masaharu Ina and Armand at the Godzilla statue in Hibiya in February. The good working relationship between fan groups and Toho began under Ina's tenure as general manager. 

Here's a story that fans of Godzilla are familiar with. Or should be.

The article from the Japan Times is on the team of lawyers that Toho Co., Ltd. enlists to protect the Godzilla (and related creatures) trademark against bootleggers and companies who try to use Godzilla's image in advertising and other unauthorized ventures.

The article begins with:
He spews radioactive fire, razes cities and pummels creatures from Earth and beyond, but even Godzilla needs a good lawyer sometimes. After all, you don’t survive 60 years in the movie business without taking some fights to court. 
For decades, attorneys acting on behalf of Godzilla’s owners, Tokyo-based Toho Co., have amassed a string of victories, fighting counterfeiters and business titans such as Comcast and Honda along the way. The opponents have come from all corners of pop culture: TV commercials, video games, rap music and even the liquor industry. 
The litigation has kept Godzilla’s brand thriving and helped pave the way for commercial and merchandising tie-ins that will accompany the monster’s return to the big screen on Friday after a 10-year hiatus. Godzilla’s image is for sale, but permission is needed.
Back in the days when I was associated with G-FAN magazine, I made it a point to consult with Toho's Los Angeles office to make sure that what we did on different things didn't infringe on their trademarks. This was started while Masaharu Ina was Toho's Los Angeles General Manager. In this way, no toes were stepped on and Toho appreciated the the gesture. If they a problem with a certain aspect, they would suggest changes. We had an excellent working relationship, even though, officially, Toho has a policy of not sanctioning fan activities. But they were helpful whenever they could. Prior to this, there existed some friction between Toho and various fan leaders (some of whom seemed to want to pick fights with Toho). Cooperating with Toho had paid off many times.

To read the full story, go here.

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