Bandai America gets master ThunderCats license

Discussion in 'Mezco and Bandai Toys' started by Mumm-Ra, Jun 3, 2010.

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  1. Screamers

    Screamers Junior Member

    I've heard so much news on this up coming cartoon, I felt there should be a toy line too. I'm so ready to start collection these new goodies :)
  2. I really doubt Bandai's going to produce figures for the classics property in the Ben 10 scale. Maybe for the new show, but if they want....whatever it is they're going to release for the classic property to sell, then they're going to most likely make it either highly articulated to appease the adult collector, or they'll perhaps re-release the primary figures from the old LJN line (probably figures only, I doubt playsets and vehicles) for a commemorative release. Since the classic property almost exclusively appeals to collectors who are now in their late 20s to mid 30s, I can't see WB (having to realize the previous statement I just made) giving Bandai the rights to that line thinking that Ben 10 style figures are going to sell.

    I don't have much hope for the line for the new show, but I have to hold onto some slim margin that there are people both at WB and Bandai with enough brains to figure out what will sell for the classic property.
  3. blackiecats

    blackiecats Legacy Team Member

    They can't really release the original figures as they were produced by a different company. I think they would need to get permission to do that.

    Nah I think they will come out with brand new sculpts, that are much more close to the look of the original cartoon series. If done right, it could really be a good line to collect.
  4. mcss aerocoupe

    mcss aerocoupe Moderator

    I too hope for new sculpts. The LJN line was awesome back in the day, but many things were not cartoon accurate, so maybe a new line would fix those minor blemishes. But back to Grune's idea...

    According to Wikipedia, LJN was bought out by Acclaim Entertainment. Acclaim kept the LJN name for use on some video games only. Then Acclaim Entertainment went belly up and the name was bought by Acclaim Group, while the video game library was bought by Throwback Entertainment. Acclaim Group has apparently went bankrupt just a few days ago. As for Throwback Entertainment, there is no additional information.

    From the looks of it, everyone who might have the rights to the LJN toyline has either passed on using it or has gone bankrupt for the last 20 years or so.
  5. Lordore

    Lordore Moderator

    According to the same source, in 1989 MCA decided to sell LJN to Acclaim after suferring serious profit losses from the Toy 'copycat' guns
    (the ones you posted on your previous threads, aero) made by Entertech, LJN's division.

    I remember a few titles and actually i owned some of the LJN,while under Acclaim, Video Games for Nintendo


    I didn't know that a year earlier LJN had acquired an Italian Toy Company, AL, and probably this is why all of the Italian Thundercats cards feature a circular red/blue logo on the right bottom corner. I tried to find more about AL on the NET but without any results, i think AL should be added as one of the official Thundercats Distributors Overseas


    Acclaim decided to close LJN around 1994 but my guess is they still have the rights, hence the return of the brand's name when Acclaim published Spirit of Speed 1937 for Dreamcast in 2000. So LJN hasn't been entirely wiped off the map and it's up to Acclaim to give the permissions for products based on LJN toys.

    Last edited: Aug 30, 2010
  6. mcss aerocoupe

    mcss aerocoupe Moderator

    That is true Lordore, however, the Acclaim of 1994 is not the Acclaim of today. The 1994 Acclaim closed, and another company bought the name, while a different company apparently bought some of the assets. And the new Acclaim has already closed up as well, with no one buying the name, yet.
  7. Lordore

    Lordore Moderator

    Well, Acclaim Entertainment, the original company owing Thundercats Toys has been purchased by Acclaim Games since 2004. Logically, Acclaim Games has also acquired the licences for LJN Thundercats.

    However, If that were to happen, we would have 4 companies producing memorabilia for the Old cartoon. Action figures based on the Old Show wouldn't appeal to younger generation since kids nowadays aren't acquainted with the cartoon at all and the present collectors have already a range of choices with the recent statues dominating the interest.
  8. Going to have to somewhat agree but also somewhat disagree with you there. LJN didn't own the rights to Thundercats, Rankin/Bass did and it is obvious they licensed the likeness to LJN.

    I'm no legal expert, but the only claim I can see Acclaim (or whoever buys them...and it could be a moot point if it is WB) having is to the 'Battle-Matic' action for the old toys, and for any toy/vehicle that didn't appear in any Rankin/Bass media (I can't recall if the laser sabres or the Luna Lasher ever made an appearance in the show). That (particularly the Battle-Matic action) is IP for whoever will own Acclaim. But the likeness belongs with WB, so there's no legal hurdle that I can see for them re-creating new molds based on the old LJN figures/weapons/vehicles/playsets but without the exact 'Battle-Matic' action features (or the light up eyes for Mumm-Ra and Lion-O). They could instead create their own mechanism, patent it, and sell it is a very similar feature (probably would have to call it something other than Battle-Matic action). They might have to change some of the packaging around as well (not sure who owns the images of the cardbacks), but those are the only legal hurdles I can think of.

    LJN only owned any property that it created not currently licensed to it by Rankin/Bass. They could only make a Lion-O figure because the right was granted to them. I don't believe they have legal right to a 'LJN Lion-O likeness', so I don't believe there's any hurdle to a company (with WB's approval, like Bandai for instance) re-releasing a commemorative figure that looks identical, has the same weapons, to an LJN figure but with a slightly altered cardback with no 'Battle-Matic' action (again, possibly replaced with a very slightly different action feature though).
  9. buddyugg99

    buddyugg99 New Member

    I really was hoping Mattel would get the license. I will still wait and see what Bandai can do. Bottom line, we will get Thundercats action figures again so it can't be all bad :)
  10. Ornclown

    Ornclown New Member

    I agree. We finally get new Thundercats! That is pretty exciting! It would have been nice to have the 4H sculpt these bad-boys, but I've seen some pretty good stuff come out of Bandai. (Albeit, mostly in Japan.....)
  11. blackiecats

    blackiecats Legacy Team Member

    The likenesses do indeed belong to WB. However saying that WB/Bandai can't take the old LJN figures and make new molds from them and then re-release the vintage LJN toys (like Mattel did in 2000 with their MOTU 80's figures) Back then Mattel had to buy MOC toys off ebay so they could make new molds, but the difference was that was originally Mattel produced and owned product.

    I never said WB/Bandai can't make figures based on the vintage design, because obviously they can. Even though Bandai will be making figures based off the 80's series, they will not and can't be the exact LJN figures re-issued.

    Yes, but it's an LJN owned product still. Going back to He-man again as a good example, Mattel own the character and the premise of the character, but it was licensed to Filmation to make a TV series. Filmation don't own the character or the basic premise, but they do fully own the cartoon series. Mattel can't go and make a duplicate He-Man series without getting permission off the company that owns Filmation (in this case Classic Media)
  12. Yes, again I'm no lawyer and I doubt we have many here on the page, and I don't necessarily disagree with you that they won't release a commemorative line based on the LJN molds, but I don't buy your argument of them not being able to do so for a couple of reasons, not the least of which is that the company believed to have owned the LJN rights (Acclaim) went bankrupt which was posted several posts back. Until that gets resolved, I don't know that anyone would even have something to make a case. WB could make it a moot point by scooping up LJN assets from that company in whatever selloff may take place. Also we've no idea what contract was signed by Rankin Bass (or whoever controlled the IP rights at the time) and LJN. They (Rankin Bass) could have bargained for retained rights to figure likeness (if those even exist, which again I question what right someone would have to a likeness of a likeness).

    LJN was not a great company. I really can't think of any other significant venture other than Thundercats that they did well. They are NOTORIOUS for their horrible video game adaptations of movie/comic properties for the NES (watch Angry Video Game Nerd episodes on Dick Tracy, Friday the 13th, A Nightmare on Elm Street, The Uncanny X-Men, or Who Framed Roger Rabbit to see what I mean). If their business practices were anything like their toy and video game development practices, then I say Bandai has no trouble at all putting out a commemorative line for the LJN figures, just without the Battle-Matic action for reasons I stated above.
  13. LJN holds the rights to the action figures.

    The author of a derivative work produced under a license holds the exclusive rights to the derivative work.

  14. You got some sort of link to prove that?
  15. I am a copyright specialist / rights management coordinator for the largest recruitment advertising agency in the world.
  16. Ok. Well again, I said a link would be useful, so I dug around and found one showing a subsection of the copyright law that pertains to this argument:

    Part b is the interesting part. It says the copyright of the 'derivative work' as you put it and as it states here only applies to the contributions of the author.

    I say its pretty safe to say that they could not include Battle-Matic action, or they couldn't include that exact mechanism or use that exact name (they could include a different action feature under a different name). But this doesn't make for a clear cut case IMO as to if Bandai could or could not release commemorative figures based on the LJN molds. Whoever comes out of the Acclaim Bankruptcy with the rights to LJN IP (which of course could be WB, again making this a moot point) could potentially have a case, but I don't know that its clear cut one way or the other and to me seems like its up to the interpretation of the overseeing judge in the matter. Also WB has enough money that they could just produce them anyways at the risk of a lawsuit, see what kind of case they have, and if the figures are selling well but the case would go in favor of the holder of the LJN license, they could probably just settle out of court. Again, thats if WB didn't have a case which according to that law above I say is ambiguous.

    Mumm-Ra, if you are indeed in that profession, could you link to any court cases that would further your point? Sorry to sound like a prick but I don't take people's words when probably 3 quarters of message board posts across the internet are complete rubbish.

    Also while this argument seems relatively useless, don't just discount it on merit. Masters of the Universe, The IP of shape changing robots (can't say the word these days it seems) and G.I. Joe all have had commemorative reissues of the original line that have all sold extremely well. A commemorative Thundercats line released in a smart way (perhaps a singular retail exclusive, in small quanitites, probably limited to just the figures with no vehicles or playsets) could sell just as well and I'm sure WB is aware of this. I won't say they will or won't, but you can't discount the possibility right out of the gate.
  17. Croaker

    Croaker Junior Member

    It's not as cut and dried as Mumm-Ra_The Ever-Living presents.
    Like Grune_The_Destroyer said, it only covers the material that was originally put into the property.
    Depending on the contracts, if the licensee produces new things for the property they may own/co-own some interest (rights) to it.

    For example Mattel owns Masters of the Universe, but Filmation, who was the licensee to produce the cartoon owns the rights to any characters that were created by them for the TV show.
    (Filmation doesn't exist anymore, but they were bought by x, who sold to Y, who went out of business and sold to Z, etc.)
  18. The contribution of LJN, LTD. (Acclaim Games, et al) to the ThunderCats action figures is the sculpture of the action figures. Rankin/Bass Productions, Inc. (Warner Bros. Entertainment, Inc., et al) only maintains the rights to the pre-existing materials in the ThunderCats action figures, i.e. the likeness of the ThunderCats characters.

    These are separate issues; the action features are a matter of patent, and the term Battle-Matic Action is a matter of trademark.

    To the contrary, it is quite clear that Bandai, Co., LTD. does not have the right to reproduce the LJN, LTD. ThunderCats action figures. For example, if I charge you a small fee for the exclusive use of my computer for a limited time so that you may write a term paper, I do not then have the right to make copies of your term paper, let alone to distribute or sell copies of it.

    In instances of copyright infringement, the rights holder is entitled to actual damages, i.e. an amount including both his financial losses, and up to the total profit of the infringing party for the infringing works; and statutory damages of up to $150,000 for each instance of infringement.

    Warner Bros. Entertainment, Inc. would not take the risk, and Acclaim Games would not settle out of court.

    Schrock v. Learning Curve Int’l, No. 08-1296 (7th Cir. Sep. 9, 2009)

    How does this contradict my post?
  19. Lordore

    Lordore Moderator

    Personally, i see no point in Bandai re-issuing the old LJN Thundercats figures. They have already earned their place in the pantheon of great Toys. Besides they are still selling pretty well.

    The best way to commemorate them is through the recent Statues production by three different companies, which have been doing a good job so far to recapturing faithfully the cartoon as well as the toyline representation.

    We all wanted a Thundercats merchandise resurface 25 years later, but it should be done within limits, otherwise the market will be inundated with superfluous products. Icon Heroe's Thundercats line could be the modern 'substitute' for the old toys.

    Bandai should stick to the New Series, even though they have stated otherwise.
  20. So I read your case Mumm-Ra, and while it appears that case does support that LJN rights holders would have an argument, wording in Durham Industries Inc. vs Tomy Corp seems to contradict. Specifically the following (concerning their attempt to copyright derivative work of Disney characters)

    "the mere reproduction of the Disney characters in plastic, even though the adaptation of the preexisting works to this medium undoubtedly involved some degree of manufacturing skill, does not constitute originality as this Court has defined the term. Tomy has demonstrated, and the toys themselves reflect, no independent creation, no distinguishable variation from preexisting works, nothing recognizably the author's own contribution that sets Tomy's figures apart from the prototypical Mickey, Donald, and Pluto, authored by Disney and subsequently represented by Disney or its licensees in a seemingly limitless variety of forms and media"

    Another quote from that case

    "Thus the only aspects of Tomy's Disney figures entitled to copyright protection are the non-trivial, original features, if any, contributed by the author or creator of these derivative works"

    That again brings me back that I believe the only copyright LJN has would be to figure is the Battle-Matic action. That's what I contend.

    Seems to me that whatever case the court decides to pull wording from in a decision is whatever way it would go. I concede that I didn't know you could copyright "derivative work", but I won't rescind that I believe I do indeed make a point and a good case for WB owning the ability to reproduce the LJN figures w/o any copyrightable feature (the Battle-Matic action).

    We've both made our points so I think its safe we should drop it since Blackiecats would lock this thread if we continue. Unless we see them on the shelves one day we'll never know if they do or do not have the right to reproduce them as WB won't comment on legal matters.

    I'm considering it a toss up for the sake of the thread and won't be responding directly anymore to posts about the legality here as, again I've both given my views on the matter and I feel have supported my argument.
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