GODZILLA PROVES EVEN GIANT MONSTERS NEED LAWYERS
In an April 23, 2014 photo, entertainment and intellectual property litigation attorney Aaron Moss of Greenberg Glusker holds a licensed Godzilla themed model, left, and an unauthorized copy used on the label of a New Orleans beer in his Century City office in Los Angeles. For decades, attorneys acting on behalf of Godzilla’s owners, Toho Co. Ltd., have amassed a string of victories, fighting counterfeiters and business titans such as Comcast and Honda along the way. The opponents have touched many aspects of pop culture: commercials, video games, rap music and even alcohol sellers. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)
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. Ltd., 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.
Toho’s attorneys use copyright and trademark law as effectively as Godzilla uses his tail and claws to topple buildings and swat opponents. Their court injunctions have permanently whacked music, books and movies from store shelves.
Since the mid-1980s, Chuck Shephard of the Los Angeles law firm of Greenberg Glusker has been Godzilla’s lead lawyer, filing suits like the one against a wine called Cabzilla that resulted in a winemaker being forced to dump its stock of Cabernet Sauvignon down the drain.
“Godzilla is just as protected as Mickey Mouse,” said Shephard in a recent interview. Toho’s lucrative licensing efforts, which include endorsements, toys, comic books, video games and even official wine and sake brands, require the company to be vigilant against copycats, he said.
Since 1991, Toho’s attorneys have filed at least 32 copyright and trademark lawsuits and countless warning letters, gaining court injunctions in a quarter of the cases. Most others have resulted in settlement agreements that while confidential, result in products disappearing from the marketplace.
Since the late 1990s, Shephard has worked Toho cases with attorney Aaron Moss, whose high-end Century City office is cluttered with a mix of legal filings and official and unofficial Godzilla merchandise.
Some of the spoils of court victories include a now out-of-circulation copy of rapper Pharoahe Monch’s 1999 album that improperly used Godzilla’s theme music and a two-foot-tall dog toy called Tuffzilla.
“Toho is not out there to extract a pound of flesh,” Moss said. “They need to protect their brand.”
Both attorneys said they carefully evaluate when to file lawsuits, and Toho trusts their judgment. Litigation often starts with a cease-and-desist letter, and a company’s reaction to it often determines whether the case escalates, they said.
“When you have something as famous as Barbie or as Godzilla, you’re well-served to protect that,” said Larry Iser, a partner at the Santa Monica, California-based firm Kinsella Weitzman Iser Kump & Aldisert.
Iser represents toy maker Mattel and noted that trademarks for some popular products such as the trampoline and escalator have fallen into the public domain, making them easier and cheaper for companies to copy.
But Godzilla’s trademarks could last forever if they’re properly handled, Iser said.
Godzilla debuted in Japan in the 1954 hit film “Gojira” but has proven to be just as popular in the United States. That’s made him an attractive spokesmonster.
He’s appeared in ads for Snickers candy bars, Nike shoes, Doritos chips, as well as in marketing for the original “Simcity” computer game, Honda minivans, and Subway’s “Five Dollar Footlong” specials. Yet those last three uses weren’t properly licensed and prompted Toho to sue.
Godzilla’s appearance in the 1991 Rose Parade sparked Toho’s first court fight with Honda. Decked out in a tuxedo and top hat, American Honda’s float was engineered to make it look like Godzilla was traipsing down the street.
The next day, Toho called Shephard. Godzilla’s image hadn’t been licensed for the float, and the ensuing lawsuit lasted more than a year before Godzilla finally prevailed. Honda denied that their float depicted Godzilla, despite advertisements and a memo about the float describing the creature by name.
It was one of many cases that featured what Moss calls “the dinosaur defense.”
Defendants sometimes claim their products aren’t Godzilla, but simply dinosaurs. It’s a dubious argument, Moss said, because the products often feature a spiky spine similar to Godzilla’s, or depict the creature in a cityscape. Godzilla may munch on cities, but dinosaurs didn’t.
“It just doesn’t work,” Moss said. “Why does it breathe fire and stomp on cities?”
Godzilla has suffered one notable loss. In 1981 – before Shephard’s firm was involved – a federal appeals court dismissed a lawsuit by Toho against Sears Roebuck & Co. filed over a line of trash bags the retailer had named “Bagzilla.” The bag’s use of a Godzilla-esque creature represented a “humorous caricature” and not a serious threat to Toho’s business interests, the court ruled.
One ongoing fight for Godzilla’s lawyers is against a Louisiana brewery, which is being sued over its Mechahopzilla beer line. The giant metal lizard on the beer’s cans and tap handles is too similar to Godzilla’s mechanical version, Mechagodzilla, Toho’s lawyers argue. The brewery contends its beer is a parody and is relying in part on the Sears case.
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MUSIC MAY BENEFIT YOUR BRAIN
Study finds improved blood flow to left side of the brain after musical training.
Musical training may increase blood flow to the left side of the brain, new research suggests.
The increase in blood flow was seen with just a half hour of music training, according to the study.
“The areas of our brain that process music and language are thought to be shared, and previous research has suggested that musical training can lead to the increased use of the left hemisphere of the brain,” study author Amy Spray, with the University of Liverpool, explained in a university news release.
“It was fascinating to see that the similarities in blood flow signatures could be brought about after just half an hour of simple musical training,” said Spray, who conducted the research as part of a summer internship program.
Spray and her colleagues studied brain activity in people who took part in music and word generation tasks and who listened to music. Blood flow patterns were the same in each task for musicians.
But, those patterns were different in non-musicians — at least until they took part in brief musical training. Following the training, the blood flow patterns in the non-musicians changed to be similar to musicians in both musical and word generation tasks, according to the study.
The findings were presented recently at the British Psychological Society Annual conference. In general, research presented at meetings is considered preliminary and should be interpreted with caution until published in a peer-reviewed journal.
By Randy Dotinga, HealthDay News
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MY RELATIONSHIP WITH ‘GLEE’
Once I heard “Don’t Stop Believing” on my TV, I was hooked. I didn’t even know what the exact premise of the show was; I just had to see it. At that time I was on the edge of turning 13, my parents thought it would be a little too inappropriate for me but I convinced them with sheer stubbornness that they couldn’t stop me from watching. Little did I know on that day, May 18, 2009, the new show Glee would begin to change my life.
Now fast-forward five years to present day, and I’m counting down my days as a high school senior along with Season 5 of the now “hit show/pop culture phenomenon,” Glee. For these past several years, Glee has been my support system, teacher and encourager. This show taught me that it was okay to be myself and that trying is always worth it, even if you fail. Learning that lesson before I entered high school was a game-changer. There is not a doubt in my mind that I wouldn’t have come out of my shell without Glee. It gave me the confidence to join my high school newspaper midway from my freshman year, and see it through. Glee was not only part of the reason I have seen just about every show my school has put on, but what caused me to decide to take up dancing during my senior year.
Glee also opened me up to accepting anyone and everyone. Before, I don’t recall noticing any gay couples. Now, looking back, maybe I chose to ignore it. After seeing Kurt come out and then Kurt and Blaine and Santana and Brittany, I realized that sexuality doesn’t need to be a big deal, people love who they love. I also learned that everyone deserves to be accepted, not just tolerated. Then came the lessons in perseverance from all the members: Quinn going to Yale, Rachel landing a Broadway role, Santana earning the understudy role, Kurt working for Vogue and getting into NYADA, Mercedes making it big in L.A., Puck going into the Air Force and finally Finn starting his career as a teacher. They may not have all been exactly realistic, but all these characters demonstrated that you can succeed and you can overcome obstacles and bounce back.
As one can hopefully tell, this show means the world to me. Because of this, when the actor who played Finn Hudson, Cory Monteith, passed away this past July, it hit me like a ton of bricks. I felt like I lost a family member, and in a way he was. Like Kurt did in the show, I choose to look past how he died and instead focus on how he and his portrayal of Finn changed me for the better. After a lot of thinking about this, I realized Finn and Cory are both my role models. The amount of perseverance, acceptance, love, kindness and hope they showed in their lives is inspiring and I hope one day I can have that. When it came time to pick a senior quote for the yearbook, it only seemed appropriate to choose one by Finn. A few weeks ago, I decided on one of Finn’s lines from “A Night of Neglect” (Season 2, Episode 17), “the show must go… all over the place… or something.” This line embodies everything that Glee taught me over the last five years: Never give up.
By Lauren Cooke | High school student in New York
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