Macross Licensing & Trademark News (Harmony Gold continue their trolling ways.)

Macross Licensing and Harmony Gold

For long time anime fans, the name “Harmony Gold” fills many of us with rage. They have a huge reputation of being a troll company, suing anyone in the world for the slightest perceived copyright infractions, mainly to do with Macross. They’ve even taken to suing the Japanese companies they originally licensed the series from, resulting in a counter suit being filed in California. On June 26, 2017, United States District Court, Central District of California made a ruling regarding the status of Harmony Gold’s stranglehold on the Macross franchise outside of Japan. As I see it, the ruling is a mixed bag as Harmony Gold retains the rights March 14, 2021.

Macross Delta 19

A Brief History

Back in 1982, anime production company Studio Nue along with partner companies Big West Advertising and Tatsunoko Productions produced an anime series known as Super Dimensional Fortress Macross. Because the original Macross anime had various rights assigned to each of the three production partners, Studio Nue gave the rights to license out Macross to Tatsunoko Productions. The Macross anime became a hit and in 1984, American company Harmony Gold licensed Macross from Tatsunoko Productions along with two other unrelated anime titles (Super Dimension Cavalry Southern Cross and Genesis Climber MOSPEADA) to turn them in to the American Robotech cartoon.

Because the original licensing agreement was done in a way that disfavored the Japanese, Harmony Gold was able to take advantage of this arrangement. Despite Studio Nue’s objections, Harmony Gold began pumping out more Robotech stuff, and no credit was given to Studio Nue nor the Macross creator, KAWAMORI Shouji. Big West Advertising sued Tatsunoko Productions in 1998, claiming Big West Advertising had the rights to license out Macross, not Tatsunoko Productions. (Whether this was a result of Tatsunoko Productions renewing its licensing agreement with Harmony Gold is unknown to me, though I tend to suspect it was the reason.)  Big West Advertising lost, so Tatsunoko Productions had Harmony Gold protect Macross trademarks not in Japan.

Thus Harmony Gold turned into a super troll company, suing people left and right for the slightest perceived copyright or trademark infractions. Suddenly, Harmony Gold decided that only they had the rights to anything Macross outside of Japan, not only in the U.S., but for the entire world! They can’t stop the Japanese from continuing to make Macross sequels, but they have prevented everyone from licensing anything Macross from Japan. And since Harmony Gold are being super arses about this, they’ve pissed off the Japanese as well.

SDF Macross

Recent Court Actions

Harmony Gold went to court to sue Tatsunoko Productions in order to claim that Harmony Gold had the rights to Macross forever. I’m not sure of all the details, but it seems that Tatsunoko Productions were going to hold Harmony Gold to ending the licensing rights to Macross on March 14, 2021. After being sued by Harmony Gold, Tatsunoko Productions counter sued to claim that Harmony Gold was in violation of their licensing agreement.

Unfortunately, Harmony Gold won on the claim that stated that they were in violation of their contract with Tatsunoko Productions. However, Harmony Gold lost on the notion that they have the rights to Macross in perpetuity. Thus short of Tatsunoko Productions being insanely stupid, Harmony Gold will no longer have the licenses to Macross, Super Dimension Cavalry Southern Cross, and Genesis Climber MOSPEADA. Not only that, Harmony Gold won’t be able to use anything related to the above three anime titles, though they can continue to make Robotech stuff, providing it isn’t related to Macross and such. No wonder there’s a push to have a hideous Robotech live-action movie made.

Harmony Gold has trademarked many things related to Macross in the U.S., Europe, and other places not in Japan. Their U.S. trademark expires on December 26, 2022. Big West Advertising does own the rights to the characters, ships, fighters, etc. of Macross. So they have finally started challenging Harmony Gold whenever Harmony Gold attempts to renew a trademark. If Big West Advertising can start chopping off these trademark tentacles of Harmony Gold, we’ll really start moving in a positive direction. Of course, Harmony Gold isn’t going to take this lying down.

My Own Thoughts

On one hand, I’ve very glad that in four years, Harmony Gold will no longer have the license stranglehold on Macross, to say nothing of Super Dimension Cavalry Southern Cross and Genesis Climber MOSPEADA. It is a shame that the legal battles between Big West Advertising and Tatsunoko Productions over international distribution rights allowed Harmony Gold to become the massive troll company they are. If Big West Advertising and Tatsunoko Productions don’t adopt a unified, aggressive legal front against Harmony Gold, I can see Harmony Gold weaseling their way into not giving up Macross.

I can see Harmony Gold taking up a scorched earth policy when it comes to ultimately being forced to give up Macross, Southern Cross, and MOSPEADA. Seriously, it would not surprise me if they went bankrupt out of spite, just to to muddy the waters even further over the rights to those three anime titles. I imagine they could keep courts all over the world tied up for years while Harmony Gold attempts to simply wear out their opponents.

And it annoys me to no end that there are people out there happily buying Robotech crap and supporting Harmony Gold’s litigious ways. I often joke (in a serious way) that there is no Robotech, only Macross. However, if Robotech is forced to be 100% divorced from the Macross and the other anime franchises, then they can do whatever. I still won’t support Robotech. I even refused to watch a review copy I was given of some Robotech movie years ago (I still have the DVD somewhere, unopened). Maybe that’s why my offers to get review copies dropped a ton. 😛

Conclusion

In conclusion, Harmony Gold keeps the rights to Macross, Southern Cross, and MOSPEADA until 2021. That sucks for us anime fans, but at least gives a ray of hope that just maybe, Harmony Gold’s choke hold on these franchises will finally be over. But with Harmony Gold owning trademarks to many things Macross, combined with their known, troll usage of the courts to sue everyone and their brother over Macross, I am not celebrating anything. Until Harmony Gold is 100% removed from the picture, there’s always a chance they will still block new Macross titles from being released outside of Japan.

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6 Responses to “Macross Licensing & Trademark News (Harmony Gold continue their trolling ways.)”

  1. NullApostle says:

    Back then Japan didn’t care about the (tiny) international anime market at all. International licensing was a sidebusiness at best, the necessary contracts probably a minor nuisance to them.

    This whole Macross situation later probably served as a warning to other studios to take more care with their licensing agreements.

    Today, shit like this would be impossible.

    • AstroNerdBoy says:

      Not just the Macross situation. One of the things I learned years ago is that the Gatchaman license also taught the Japanese a valuable lesson on licensing to U.S. markets. That happened in the 70s. However, Harmony Gold’s trolling litigation is what I think took everything to the next level. The licensor of Gatchaman wasn’t an arse like the folks at Harmony Gold were.

  2. Rob C. says:

    Sadly, I’ve been tied up in this for decades now. I got into anime (mecha wise) because of Robotech. HG transformed into realstate company but held on to it’s media copyrights. Eventually went from being a importer of media to a trolling holding company whom only pursuit is to what money they which way they can make it. Right now Sony is in talks with HG with their stalled Live-action version of Robotech. The 1# reason why after their Robotech Shadow Chronicles film, HG torpedo any further efforts to make something new Robotech animation.

    I am also into a miniatures game called BattleTech, who got their copyright to some of the Macross-related image through a Tatsunoko via which was briefly held by modeling company that made “Robotech” Defender Models, but had other franchises that don’t relate to Macross. Battletech after being stung by HG’s never ending Trolling redid it’s Mechs so they won’t look like the macross ones, yet they continue to this day. You can read it here. http://www.sarna.net/wiki/Unseen

    A video game of Battletech named MechWarriorOnline (MWO) has also been sued by their usage of “similar” mecha to Macross ones.

    I belong to community who is waiting to hear what the court ruling will be next yet.
    I grew weary of HG when they abruntly canceled their Robotech II The Sentinels comic book series that Academy Comic was keep producing since early 1990s.

    I look forward to end of Harmony Gold and finally releasing Macross to the United States unblemished by these jerks who inherited Harmony Gold properties.

    • AstroNerdBoy says:

      I got into anime (mecha wise) because of Robotech.

      I was vaguely aware of it when it first came out, but at that time in my life, my TV access was very limited. Plus, even back then, I worked a lot doing yard work (mowing in summer; raking and general cleanup in the fall and winter). So when I did have time to sneak to a friends house, it was usually to play Atari. 😆

      As to BattleTech, the only reason I was aware of it is through a friend of mine, who was big into mecha. I wasn’t even into anime, but he had some PC games. But because of that limited exposure, after I became a Macross fan, I did make myself aware of how BattleTech fans suffered/

      Right now Sony is in talks with HG with their stalled Live-action version of Robotech.

      Actually, I heard they got a writer for the project. 🙁

      I look forward to end of Harmony Gold and finally releasing Macross to the United States unblemished by these jerks who inherited Harmony Gold properties.

      I agree!

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