U.S. Man Sues Over Toei's Knights of the Zodiac/St. Seiya
posted on by Egan Loo
The Japanese studio Toei Animation announced on Tuesday that a man filed a lawsuit against Toei's American subsidiary, Toei Animation Incorporated (TAI), over rights related to the Knights of the Zodiac (Saint Seiya in Japanese) anime series. The plaintiff, Isaac A. Potter, Jr., served as his own lawyer when he filed the suit in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia on December 9, 2010. Potter alleges that TAI's Knights of the Zodiac infringed on his copyrights and trademarks. In addition to TAI, Potter named the United States of America as a defendant. Potter is seeking an injunction against TAI, US$1 billion in punitive damages, and additional statutory damages.
Toei adapted Masami Kurumada's 1986-1990 mythological fantasy manga Saint Seiya into a 1986-1989 television anime series of the same name. ADV Films and DiC Entertainment released the anime in North America in two versions: a version with English subtitles under the original name, and a version with English dubbing under the name Knights of the Zodiac. As such, Toei filed for registration on a U.S. trademark on "Knights of the Zodiac" for animation, trading cards, clothing, and toys on May 20, 2002, and received the registration on May 20, 2008. The dubbed Knights of the Zodiac version premiered on the American Cartoon Network on August 30, 2003.
The plaintiff and his brother Samuel J. Potter, under the name Potter Boys' Creations, obtained copyright protection for a drawing entitled "Zodiac Knights 2000" on October 10, 1995. They then filed a U.S. trademark for "Zodiac Knights 2000 ZK" for clothing, games, advertising, and other services on February 24, 1997, although the status of this trademark has been "abandoned" and "dead" since April 9, 1998. They also filed the trademark "Zodiac Knights 2000" separately in Indiana on March 1, 2004, and the status of that registration is "live."
In May of 2003, the Potters published a book called Zodiac Knights 2000 Featuring Creatures of the Knights: Creatures of the Knights (A New Era). Potter used the services of 1st Book Publishing, a company that offers to print books for authors seeking to self-publish their works.
The Potters had filed an earlier lawsuit in Georgia's Fulton County (later moved to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, Atlanta Division) against the Cartoon Network on July 18, 2006. The Cartoon Network filed two motions to dismiss the suit in 2006, and both motions were denied. The court had concluded that the Potters had not abandoned their trademark due to their separate registration filing in Indiana.
Toei consulted with its legal representation and asserts that it finds no legal grounds for the plaintiff's current lawsuit. Toei said that it will fight the suit and could try to dismiss it. The studio added that it does not believe the suit will affect its business.