Godzilla Settles with “Mechahopzilla”
Godzilla’s rights-owner Toho Co. Ltd. announced a settlement of the intellectual property litigation with New Orleans Lager & Ale Brewing Co. (“NOLA”). Toho had filed a lawsuit against NOLA when it had come out with a beer called ‘Mechahopzilla’ and used a logo allegedly similar to Mechagodzilla, a character from the 1974 film Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla. While no monetary award was reported, the agreement calls for NOLA to rename its beer and change some aspects of its advertising and packaging that are affected by this settlement.
In an attempt to raise a fair use defense, asserting the use a parody, Dylan Lintern, a vice president at NOLA, was asked during deposition to explain how the beer character poked fun at Godzilla. “Because Godzilla is not a hop monster. I mean, you’re asking me to explain humor to you. If you don’t get it, I can’t help you,” he responded. To constitute a parody, Toho’s lawyers argued, “There must be some commentary or substantive sentiment expressed about the underlying protected work. Here, there was none. It is not permissible for a business to simply use someone else’s trademark to attract attention to its own product, regardless of how ‘funny’ or ‘clever’ it thinks the use may be.” While a parody is a fair use, courts generally disallow a satire which uses the copyrighted work to comment on something other than the underlying work.
Certainly there is no doubt that Toho will guard its IP rights even more fiercely after the recent box office success of the new Godzilla.