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Tsuburaya wins ‘Ultraman’ battle

Court rules in favor of company

TOKYO — Thailand’s Supreme Court has ruled for Japan’s Tsuburaya Prods. in its 10-year suit against a local businessman who claimed to have rights to its iconic and highly lucrative “Ultraman” sci-fi franchise.

On Tuesday Sompote Saengduenchai was ordered to pay a 10.7 million baht ($350,000) fine plus 7.5% interest per year starting from Dec. 16, 1997, when the original lawsuit was filed. He was also ordered to quit the “Ultraman” biz within 30 days.

Saengduenchai, who claimed he co-created the character, said he signed a deal with Tsuburaya in 1976 giving him rights to “Ultraman” outside Japan. As chairman of Tsuburaya Chaiyo, he has been profiting from merchandising and royalties.

Tsuburaya Prods. filed a suit in Thai copyright court against Saengduenchai in 1997 and challenged a 2000 court ruling that backed Saengduenchai’s claim while conceding Tsuburaya Prods.’ ownership of the franchise.

The case went to the Supreme Court, which found Saengduenchai’s contract to be invalid and ruled that he did not co-create the character.  

“Ultraman” began life as a 1966 live-action show in which Ultraman and his family from the M-78 nebula battled aliens intent on harming humanity. The original show has since spawned TV follow-ups, toon series and theatrical features.

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