Tuesday, February 5, 2008
THE BITTER TEA OF MR. SOMPOTE
Or "That's the Way the Thai Cookie Crumbles"
Celebrations all around! At least for the time being...
It's finally over. After more than a decade of slings and arrows, Tsuburaya Productions has won. Thai-based Chaiyo Films' strong-armed attempt to steal the Ultraman franchise by defrauding and defaming Tsuburaya Productions (the company founded by Eiji Tsuburaya Productions in 1963), has really come to an end. Now, there will be no holding back on Tsuburaya Productions' hopes to market their properties in the US and beyond.
In short, the whole sordid and nasty story began in 1997, when Chaiyo's founder, Sompote Saengduenchai, filed a lawsuit against Tsuburaya Productions over a "contract" allegedly signed by the late CEO Noboru Tsuburaya in 1970s, handing over all of the rights to the then-existing Ultraman franchise to Chaiyo in exchange for a financial loan.
What made this business uglier is that Sampote continually claimed that he and Eiji Tsuburaya were close friends - and even displayed a large portrait of Tsuburaya in his living room, further underlining the deceit of their lawsuit. But now that the dust has settled, Tsuburaya Productions has indeed prevailed, much like their silver and red superhero.
Eiji Tsuburaya can now rest easy...
With that being said, here's the report on the final nail in the coffin for these reprehensible intellectual pirates:
Final Ruling in "Ultraman Case"
Published in Bangkok's The Nation on February 6th, 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 Thailand partner representing Tsuburaya Productions, said the Central Intellectual Property Court yesterday read a Supreme Court ruling that said there was no circumstantial evidence to support claims that Sompote Saengduenchai co-invented the popular television superhero.
The ruling means Sompote and his company, Tsuburaya 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 10.7 million Baht ($343,984 U.S. dollars) plus interest at the rate of 7.5 % a year starting from December 16, 1997, when the original lawsuit was filed.
(Special thanks to James Ballard for altering us to the good news!)
Related stories and information:
"Sampote Loses Ultraman Case" Bangkok Post, February 6th, 2008
"Top Court Rules Ultraman is Not Thai" AFP, February 6th, 2008
"Tsuburaya Wins Ultraman Case" The Nation, April 5th, 2007
"Ultraman Licensing Rights Dispute" on Wikipedia