Friday, March 27, 2009

Who Owns the ‘Zilla’ in Godzilla?

A writer friend of mine has had the nickname Redzilla for a long time, gaining the name while living in Japan as a tall redhead. She used the name on her blog for a long time along with red lizard and dinosaur graphics. Japanese toy manufacturer, Toho Company, Ltd., who owns the Godzilla trademark, recently sent here a cease and desist letter, warning her not to use the name Redzilla in conjunction with any Godzilla, dinosaur, or lizard-like graphics. Red, not itching for a fight, willingly adopted a new name, “Redcylla & Charybdis,” so as not to offend the crack Toho legal team.

My question is: Who owns the “Zilla” in “Godzilla”? I did a search of the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office’s trademark database and found that the trademark “Zilla” is actually owned by Central Garden & Pet Company Corp. of California (reg. #3386521). New Angle Pet Products used to own the mark, but it was deemed abandoned by the USPTO as of January 5, 2009. Other companies have filed trademark registration applications for the name Zilla. Yet Toho is not one of them although “Zilla” is the name Toho gave to the title character of the cheesy 1998 TriStar Pictures film Godzilla. Toho only owns the mark for Godzilla. In fact, an Australian man filed a trademark application on December 18, 2008 to register the name “Redzilla” for use in connection with grape wines, red wines, table wines, etc.

McDonald’s Corporation has been infamous for, among other things, its vigorous defense of the prefix “Mc” or “Mac.” McDonald’s has brought multiple trademark and copyright infringement lawsuits in the United States and in other countries to prevent the continued use of names such as, “MacJoy,” “McCoffee,” “McChina” and “McMunchies.” McDonald’s has lost some cases and won others. Of course, the financial burden of the lawsuits is far greater on the alleged infringer than the billion dollar company. So it's understandable when someone like my friend Red bows to the pressure of a company like Toho. But the thing is: Does Toho really have the right to claim ownership of the word “Zilla” when the word has become entrenched in the English lexicon when referring to something big, monstrous, or destructive? Or is Toho being a Corpzilla?

1 comment:

  1. And as long as Redzilla Wineries never use any dinosaur-, lizard-, or Godzilla-like graphics, they'll be in the clear.