Ultraman Copyright: Big Plans after Japan Court Win

After a seven-year Tokyo court battle, Sompote Saengduenchai, a Thai businessman, won rights to Ultraman in all international markets except Japan. Ultraman has long been considered one of Japan's quintessential superheroes, like America's Superman, but Sompote was involved in designing the character while a student in Japan in the early 1960s. Sompote is now planning Ultraman films, theme parks, restaurants, and character goods, which he intends to market in Asia, the U.S., Europe, and Africa. This brings a new twist to the globalization of Japanese pop culture and raises the question of whether Ultraman will continue to be perceived as Japanese, at least on the global stage. – YaleGlobal

Ultraman Copyright: Big Plans after Japan Court Win

Kwanchai Rungfapaisarn
Wednesday, March 5, 2003

Fresh from last week's verdict giving Sompote Saengduenchai worldwide rights, excluding Japan, to the comic superhero Ultraman, the Thai businessman said yesterday he is looking to duplicate the success of Superman on international markets.

Speaking at a press conference in Bangkok to announce his victory over Japanese Tsuburaya Productions Co Ltd, Sompote said Ultraman projects in the offing include an "Ultraman Town and Museum", which is set to open next year.

The Bt1-billion project will be located on 500-rai land plot at Chaiyo Production's outdoor studio at Pratunam Pra-In, Pathum Thani, Sompote said.

Meanwhile, Chaiyo Productions, the group's film-production unit, is producing a new Ultraman film titled "Ultraman Millennium", which he said, is expected to hit screens in Thailand and overseas next year.

Sompote, who is the president of Tsuburaya Chaiyo Co Ltd, last week won a lawsuit against Tsuburaya Productions in a Tokyo court on Friday (Feb 28), giving him full rights to the Ultraman character in Thailand and in all international markets, except Japan.

The victory came after a seven-year fight between the two companies over the rights to the comic superhero. Sompote said he was now preparing to file another lawsuit against Tsuburaya Productions in a bid to win damages incurred in the legal tussle.

"I have fought for seven years and have documents that prove I was in the right, and now intend to enhance Ultraman's commercial prospects," said Sompote, adding that he had been involved in the Ultraman design while a student in Japan in 1962.

"The fight was not just for myself and my family, but for the dignity of all Thais," Sompote said.

He wanted to make Ultraman a hit, not just in Thailand but worldwide, he said, duplicating the success of US superhero Superman, adding that he planned to add Thai qualities to the Ultraman character, such as having him fight aliens with muay Thai.

Scenes in the "Ultraman Millennium" movie would be set in popular Thai destinations, such as the Floating Market, Rama 9 Bridge, and Wat Arun, he said, to promote both Thailand and Ultraman.

"I will start promoting Ultraman beginning with Asian markets, such as China, India and Hong Kong, before taking the character to other international markets, such as the United States, Europe and Africa," Sompote said.

He said the company would appoint master licencees as well as local license agents in individual markets, which would hold the license of Ultraman for their own regions or countries.

Tanin Tiranasawadi, managing director of Chaiya Productions, said the company is also negotiating with a local partner, which he declined to name, to form a joint venture to open an Ultraman-themed restaurant chain in Thailand.

He said the first outlet would open by next year.

The company was also negotiating with the Mall Group, a leading shopping-complex operator, on the possibility of opening an Ultraman theme park, he said.

However, he said it was uncertain whether the park project, which is slated to open next year, would be a joint venture or wholly owned by Chaiyo Productions.

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