Think Godzilla's Scary? Meet His Lawyers

November 24, 2008Article

It's been 54 years since an atomic blast awakened the slumbering reptilian monster Godzilla, and the fire-breathing, fin-tailed beast has been terrorizing downtown Tokyo ever since — in more than two dozen movies, on television and in comics and cartoons.

But Godzilla is a pussycat compared to the coterie of lawyers and investigators in Los Angeles and Japan who aggressively protect the radioactive behemoth from anyone who dares to appropriate his lizardly image for profit.

"As a trademark owner, one of the requirements is to police your mark to ensure that it does not become generic, that it does not become a common word for any fire-breathing monster," says Aaron Moss, a Toho attorney in Los Angeles. "If you don't, the trademark becomes devalued and hard to enforce."

That policing is a full time job, in part because of Godzilla's uniquely embedded place in U.S. culture. Unlike E.T., the Predator or the slimy extraterrestrial from Alien, Godzilla is often regarded by the public as community property.

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