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Toho Co. Ltd., the Japanese rights-holder of “Godzilla,” has announced that it has reached a settlement agreement with New Orleans Lager & Ale Brewing Co. to resolve an intellectual property dispute.
The beverage company had come out with a beer titled “Mechahopzilla,” which sparked a Louisiana lawsuit contending that the brew infringed Toho’s rights to Mechagodzilla, a character first introduced in the 1974 film Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla. As a result of the settlement, the brewery will rename its beer and change some facets of its advertising and packaging.
Mechagozilla is described as Godzilla’s mechanical doppelgänger, and while the character has evolved over the years, Toho believes it has well-delineated traits being the robotic version of a large, powerful, erect-standing, two-footed, reptilian creature with a long lizard-like tail, muscular forearms and legs, and spikes along its back. This description comes from a summary judgment motion in Toho’s lawsuit against the beer company.
Toho hunted the brewery not only on trademark grounds that the name of the beer would lead consumers to be confused about sponsorship, but also because the image of the “Mechahopzilla” character on tap handles and beer cans violated its copyright.
How was the beer named?
In a deposition, NOLA’s head brewmaster Peter Caddoo said he wasn’t trying to be disrespectful to the Mechagodzilla character nor say anything about the Godzilla movies. “They thought it was a cool name, thought it would be a great name for a beer, I guess,” he said.
Before coming to a settlement, the defendant tried out a parody defense. Asked how the beer character made fun of Godzilla, Dylan Lintern, a vice president at the brewery, offered in deposition, “Because Godzilla is not a hop monster. I mean, you’re asking me to explain humor to you. If you don’t get it, I can’t help you. I don’t know what you want me to say.”
The Japanese company certainly wasn’t laughing.
Rebutting the contention that the beer constituted parody, Toho’s lawyers stated, “There must be some commentary or substantive sentiment expressed about the underlying protected work. Here, there was none. It is not permissible for a business to simply use someone else’s trademark to attract attention to its own product, regardless of how ‘funny’ or ‘clever’ it thinks the use may be.”
It’s now water under the reptilian-crushed bridge.
Aaron Moss, a partner at Greenberg Glusker who represented the plaintiff, says, “Toho vigorously protects Godzilla and its other characters because they are extremely valuable. The incredible box office results of Legendary’s new Godzilla film leave no doubt about this.”
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