Monstrous Lawsuit Concerning The Godzilla Character Survives Motion To Dismiss
Steven T. Lowe
On April 12, 2022, U.S. District Judge Percy Anderson for the Central District of California denied a motion to dismiss a copyright infringement claim against the producers of Godzilla: King of the Monsters, which was released in 2019. The lawsuit alleged that the producers copied media company Summit Kaiju LLC’s monster called “Batholith” in their 2019 film.
Judge Anderson’s order to deny the motion to dismiss the copyright infringement claim sprouted from a complaint filed by Summit Kaiju LLC against Legend Pictures LLC in December 2021. The complaint alleged that in 2017, Summit Kaiju LLC retained an artist to develop characters in the “Godzilla mythos.” The artist created “Batholith,” a monster described as “a living mountain kaiju made in part of the stone.” In the same year, Summit Kaiju LLC registered its copyright in the character design of “Batholith” with the U.S. Copyright Office, publicly unveiled it at conventions, on social media, and announced an animated series. However, the plaintiff alleged that Legend Pictures LLC copied “Batholith” in their 2019 film and later novel. More specifically, the complaint alleged that Legend Pictures began developing their film in 2014 and were supposed to license kaiju characters from Toho Co. Ltd.’s collection. Still, that plan fell through when the cost was too high. Since the cost was too high, Legend Pictures said they would license kaiju characters outside of that collection. Then, sometime in July 2018, Legend Pictures LLC allegedly copied “Batholith” to produce their character, “Titanus Methuselah,” which was seen in their film and novel. The complaint contained comparisons of the characters, which Summit Kaiju LLC believes show the substantial and striking similarities between the two characters.
On April 12, 2022, Legend Pictures LLC filed a motion to dismiss Summit Kaiju LLC’s copyright infringement claim. Legend Pictures LLC argued that Summit Kaiju LLC did not hold a valid copyright to “Batholith” because character copyrights only exist in certain situations and they didn’t allege enough facts to warrant protection under the “Towle test”, a test that allows individuals to copyright characters if they are “especially distinctive.” However, Judge Anderson disagreed, writing that although you cannot copyright a character, the Towle test does afford characters who are especially “distinctive” copyright protection and “Batholith” satisfied this. Judge Anderson also confirmed that Summit Kaiju LLC alleged more than just small similarities, which can be determined with more accuracy using expert testimony. Consequently, Judge Anderson denied Legend Pictures LLC’s motion to dismiss and required an answer to Summit Kaiju LLC’s complaint by April 26, 2022.
Authors Note: This is a good decision.
Summit Kaiju LLC is represented by Alexander Kerr of Alex Kerr Law LLC.
Legend Pictures LLC is represented by Nicolas Jampol, Adrian Vallens, and Cristina Salvato of Davis Wright Tremaine LLP.
This case is Summit Kaiju LLC v. Legend Pictures, LLC, case number 2:21-cv-09779, in the United States District Court for the Central District of California.
* Lowe & Associates (“The Firm”) is a boutique entertainment and business law firm located in Beverly Hills, California. The firm has extensive experience handling cases involving copyright infringement, having provided top-quality legal services to its clients since 1991. The Firm is recognized for its many achievements, including successfully litigating many high-profile cases.
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