TOY MAKER TRENDMASTERS TACKLES 'GODZILLA' CREATOR: LAWSUIT CLAIMS COLUMBIA TRISTAR SOLD LICENSES FOR ACTION FIGURES TO SECOND COMPANY

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Trendmasters is breathing fire at Columbia TriStar Motion Pictures in a lawsuit over toy licenses for last year's film "Godzilla."

Trendmasters, the master toy licensee outside of Japan for the flick, has filed suit in the U.S. District Court, Central District of California, against Columbia TriStar and its licensing division, Sony Signatures, for breach of contract.

The suit stems from the studio's decision to allow another licensee, Toy Biz, to make action figures for the monster movie similar to those created by Trendmasters. Attorneys for Trendmasters said the toys were also sold in many of the same stores, confusing consumers.

Typically, each toy licensee holds an exclusive license for a specific product niche.

Sony Signatures executives declined comment on the lawsuit.

Trendmasters estimates damages related to the alleged breach of contract will exceed $10 million. The suit-which also names Japan's Toho Co., the official rights holder of the Godzilla name, as a defendant-seeks an unspecified amount of money.

SLICING THE SALAMI

"They sliced the salami a little too thin," said Don Kaul, an attorney at Dorsey & Whitney, Costa Mesa, Calif., the law firm for Trendmasters. "They tried to get too many licenses out there. Trendmasters believes it had a exclusive license for action figures, but there is a second company."

'GODZILLA' DIFFERENT

The marketing of "Godzilla" differed from most films. To keep the look of the new Godzilla secret and build anticipation, Sony Pictures Entertainment forbade toy licensees from selling any product before the movie opened in late May 1998. Toymakers typically garner up to 25% of sales in the weeks before a movie's theatrical release.

Despite the lawsuit, Trendmasters continues to produce a line of toys tied to the Fox network's high-rated Saturday morning cartoon, "Godzilla: The Series"

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