Upper Deck Ordered to Pay Aniplex US$3.9 Million+ for Kiba
posted on by Crystalyn Hodgkins
The United States District Court for the District of Nevada ruled on November 30 that the card distributor Upper Deck is to pay Aniplex, Inc. US$3,950,000 as the result of a lawsuit that the two companies had been involved in since 2008. The two companies had settled outside of court; however, the court then ruled in favor of Aniplex after Upper Deck did not pay the US$3.95 million amount in full by November 28, which was the date stipulated in the settlement.
The lawsuit between the two companies resolved around Upper Deck's investment in Hiroshi Koujina and Madhouse's 51-episode Kiba alternate-world television anime series.
Original LawsuitAccording to legal documents, Aniplex filed the lawsuit in April 2008 and demanded a jury trial. Aniplex claimed in the lawsuit that Upper Deck did not pay Aniplex the amount agreed upon by the two companies regarding the anime series. Aniplex claimed Upper Deck said it would pay Aniplex for a 30% stake in the series, television and home video distribution rights outside of Japan, merchandising rights, and for commercials and other sponsorship.
Aniplex claimed that Upper Deck paid Aniplex only part of the money owed. Aniplex claimed that Upper Deck still owed the company 251.475 million yen (US$3.23 million) for investment, 154 million yen (US$1.98 million) for sponsorship, US$2.02 million for merchandising rights, and "some or all" of the $1.73 million for television and home video distribution rights. Aniplex sued Upper Deck for breach of contract, breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, unjust enrichment, and accounting.
Upper Deck's CounterclaimIn May 2008, Upper Deck filed a response to Aniplex's claims and filed a counterclaim. According to the counterclaim document, Upper Deck argued that it created a "Master Plan" for the series that "included characters, plots, storylines, and other elements necessary to make the television series conducive to the development of a card game," which Upper Deck wrote was for the target age group of 8- to 12-year-old children.
Upper Deck argued that "as the television series was developed, many of the concepts and storylines included in the Master Plan were discarded by Aniplex, despite Upper Deck's objections, in favor of new storylines and concepts developed by Aniplex." Upper Deck claimed that the new storylines and concepts "so deviated from the Master Plan that the television series was far too violent to appeal to the trading card game's target audience of 8 to 12 year olds." In addition, Upper Deck claimed it could not get the series approved for broadcast due to its "age-inappropriate violence."
Upper Deck's claims were that Aniplex was in breach of its original contract with Upper Deck because of the changes it made to the television series. Upper Deck then asked the court that Aniplex pay damages and the costs of the lawsuit. Upper Deck also demanded a jury trial.
SettlementOn September 29 of this year, after several jury trial hearings, the two companies filed a settlement agreement with the court. The settlement required Upper Deck to pay Aniplex US$3,950,000 before November 28. The sum was guaranteed by Richard McWilliam, chairman and co-founder of Upper Deck. The settlement noted that each company would be responsible for its own attorneys' fees.
The settlement noted that if the US$3,950,000 was not paid in full by November 28, then a judge could rule in the case in favor of Aniplex and against Upper Deck for that sum. In the November 30 judgement, Upper Deck was also ordered to pay post-judgment interest from November 29 until the amount is paid in full. The judgement noted that "Upper Deck shall recover nothing on its counterclaims."
Aniplex told ANN it had no comment to give at this time regarding the lawsuit and settlement. Upper Deck did not respond to ANN's request for comment by press time.
Kiba originally aired on TV Tokyo in 2006-2007. The series revolved around Zed, a young man who was transported into another world while fleeing authorities. In the new world, Zed meets a young girl named Roya and learns that he is a Shard Caster who can control "spirits."
In March 2008 ADV licensed Kiba for release in North America, and Cartoon Network's Toonami Jetstream online video service added the series to its American lineup in July 2008. The Anime Network is currently streaming the entire series.
In August of this year, the Dutch trading card company Upper Deck International filed a lawsuit against its own Upper Deck Co. subsidiary in California — claiming that the subsidiary counterfeited the Yu-Gi-Oh! card game and cost its parent company millions of dollars in legal fees, lost sales, and damaged reputation.
Update: Aniplex's response added. Roya's spelling corrected. Thanks, Dessa.
Image © Aniplex, TV Tokyo, Kiba Production Committee
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