What Battle Beasts Rights Does Diamond Select Have?

battle beasts

battle beasts by toy find!, on Flickr

Phil Reed over at Battlegrip speculates on the specific rights Diamond Select Toys has to Battle Beasts. I actually discussed this on PGPoA way back in 2009, and even then it was rumored DST only had the trademark on the brand name, not the creature designs (or the rub-sign feature).

It seems obvious TakaraTomy (the Japanese rights holder of Transformers) still has the rights to Beastformers, the Japanese toy line that became Battle Beasts when imported to the U.S. and Europe. As the original name suggests, in Japan the line was tied in to Transformers (specifically the Japanese Headmasters franchise). And now it looks like TakaraTomy may be moving forward with some new product under the name Beast Saga.

(A brief aside to Phil’s main question: I suspect the confusion over whether DST “paid someone” for the trademark is due either to someone at the C2E2 DST panel misspeaking, or someone misunderstanding or misreporting what was said. I do think they simply snapped up the trademark when TakaraTomy let it lapse. Also, I believe you pay the government a fee when you pick up a lapsed trademark, so that may be what the “paid” is referring to.)

I did attempt to find out exactly what the situation was with DST and the BB rights, but was unable to get a straight answer. But it’s pretty clear DST probably only has the trademark to the name “Battle Beasts.” I think this was evident from the beginning, but what happened was people were using the terms “trademark” and “brand” interchangeably when discussing it, and as “brand” tends to hold a broader scope in people’s minds, things got confused.

I would assume/hope DST’s lawyers did their research and concluded that creating small anthropoid animal figures wearing armor wouldn’t be be grounds for a copyright lawsuit (possibly because it’s been done dozens of times before).

That said, DST has been pretty cagey when discussing the rights question, which suggests to me they’re aware they’re treading a fine line. You’ll notice the new DST Battle Beasts designs have a distinct “fantasy” look to them instead of the sci-fi armor of the vintage figures and DST’s earlier alligator Minimate BB exclusive. I suspect this was done deliberately to differentiate DST’s new franchise from the vintage one owned by TakaraTomy.

If the scenario I’ve described is accurate – and please remember this is all speculation right now – DST is in a somewhat tricky position. They want to capitalize on collector nostalgia for the vintage line, but because the only own the trademark and not the license, they have to go out of their way to make sure the figures don’t look too much like the vintage versions.

I was never into Battle Beasts myself, so I can’t speak to how disappointed its fans will be if they can’t get updates of their favorite vintage figures. With its funny, quirky designs, Battle Beasts does strike me as the sort of toy line where kids had their favorites. But without a vintage cartoon (there was a very short-lived comic, which scarcely counts) to allow kids  to develop attachments to specific characters, I think it’s possible the “Battle Beasts” name and slew of little animal figures will be enough for most collectors.

But again, I’m not a Battle Beasts fan, so I welcome your opinions. Post below or email me at poe@poeghostal.com.

Comments now closed (38)

  • I'm…just conflicted all around. I'm a pretty big Battle Beasts fan (having written all of the features that appeared in Lee's Toy Review in 2003 and later in 2006), but the price of the original vintage Japanese toys has become so cost prohibitive over the years that I haven't added any new toys to my collection in years. Any new toy line that goes for that nostalgic vibe attempts to fill the void that most vintage collectors encounter.

    Regardless of the name itself, I think it's very cool that DST is using the Mini Mates body to create an original albeit very familiar concept instead of resorting to a recognizable license. Plus, it's not like Battle Beasts were ever given a rich backstory in America (there was a 4-issue mini series comic book published by Blackthorne Publishing in 1988, and it wasn't very good), so between the original backstory and original characters, I have to commend them for effort.

    However, it's obvious that whatever Beast Saga ends up being, it's MUCH closer in concept to the original Battle Beasts (my guess is that they will be similar to the recently released Transformers Power Bots in concept). And honestly, as a pretty hard core vintage BB/LB collector, of the two lines, that's the one I'm more likely to end up spending my money on because it matches the original concept more closely. I really don't need the name to be exactly the same.

    I just wish toy companies would try and create brand new concepts rather than constantly recycling toys from the 1980s. I know collectors have more expendable income than children (or the parents willing to buy toys for their children), but I'd really like to see something completely original on the shelves again. I feel like collectors might actually be more excited if DST was doing something all original with a different name, since, other than the generic M.A.X. line, it would be the first completely original line of Minimates ever…unless I'm mistaken?

    • They did that pirates line too. I think both lines are pretty much in limbo now though, it seems like anything not tied to an existing property is a hard sell to retailers.

  • Yep, it’s name only. I’m not sure how many fans are really aware, and you’re right. It seems like a very fine line. I wonder how much coverage the line would have gotten if everyone knew they weren’t related to the other Battle Beasts. Once I found out they weren’t a reimagining but a whole new thing, I lost most of my excitement.

    Still, they do look pretty great, especially considering the use of Minimates bodies.

  • They are beasts dressed for battle. They are Battlin' Beasts. Same concept, minor tweaks. This changes nothing in my mind and will just as easily fill the nostalgic void as something that is "official". What does that even mean? Other than the rub on symbol, it's the same thing. Nit picky fans will disagree, but they're wrong. Because these are Beasts. That Battle.

  • Yeah, DST were very, very clear about it at C2E2, that they had only bought the name. I had favorite ones as a kid, but as you say they weren't really "characters" to me so I'm just happy to get some new animals in armor — of all the '80s toylines, I never thought there would be new Battle Beasts of any kind, and these look great.

    • It's the "bought the name" that keeps throwing me. You don't buy trademarks from the USPTO. You pay to file, but the USPTO doesn't own a bunch of old trademarks. What I want to know is:

      Did DTS buy the trademark from someone (who?), or did they simply file for the trademark? I suspect it's the latter, but hearing or seeing the C2E2 panel would help me better understand what DST announced.

      Something similar happened with the "Amazing Stories" trademark last fall. See this press release for how it happened:
      http://www.rimworlds.com/thecrotchetyoldfan/_wp/?…

      • I dont recall them saying they bought or paid anyone for anything, just that its their original concept and they have the name.

        • Also, there was no photography or recording at the panel, so exact wording is lost to time.

        • Looking at the U.S. trademark records, it seems pretty clear Tomy abandoned the trademark in 2008 and Diamond snapped it up that same year…end of story.

        • Okay, sorry, "had" the name then. I just meant they were very open and clear that other than the name these were not associated with the old line. "Bought" was just me assuming.

      • You could be totally right that there's something more here, Phil, but I have to go with Occam's Razor and assume they just filed for the abandoned trademark (as it was clearly abandoned according to the Tomy record) and that someone at the panel either misspoke or misheard.

  • I'm surprised with all the Bakugan-type crap kids (or parents?) buy, that Hasbro isn't dying to launch a BB line in the US.

    • Yeah…they could work in some sort of new high-tech method of using the wood/water/fire thing, maybe you need to plug the figure in to see what you get. Or ditch it entirely in favor of some sort of points system with various buffs…

      Anyway, maybe Hasbro will do something with Beast Saga, if that turns out to really exist.

      • DST is developing a “game element” but they weren’t clear on what it would be. However they were clear that it’s not wood/fire/water etc.

    • Hasbro already has Transformers Bot Shots as their Bakugan-esque toyline. It's easier for Hasbro to milk that cash cow than it is to launch a new brand (or new to today's kids at least).

  • Zach’s exact words were we purchased the name Battle Beasts. He was probably just saying that they got the trademark. It is clear that they have tried to make their Beasts different and I suspect this is part of the reason for the delay. They have changed their design some, and have created a comic which fleshes out the story, no doubt to differentiate their property from anything else. Buy as I said in my C2E2 coverage, DST was very clear that this was not related to any other property on any way.

    • Ah, okay, good to know I didn't pull the "bought" thing completely out of thin air then. Feeling slightly less crazy now.

      • You’re not crazy. Just a lot of hullabaloo about semantics, no doubt because of the fine line DST is walking. But they made it very clear, this is something new. Not a remake, reimagining or continuation. I think folks at the panel got that, but others have been more confused.

        • Good to know I'm not crazy as well, as I thought I heard Zach say that as well, and my comment in this regard on October Toys is what seems to have started this whole inquiry by Phil Reed.

    • That squares with my guess – that the delay was due to DST trying to figure out how to present the Beasts to collectors in a familiar but legal way.

  • At C2E2 last year (or was it the year before…?), they spoke of Battle BEasts at the MiniMates panel and said right then and there they they only owned the name, and that they couldn't do rub signs, etc. In fact, I'm pretty positive he even said they just did a search for old property names that had lapsed, stumbled upon "Battle Beasts" and bought it. I filmed that panel…I will go find the video and post a link.

    So I think I've known since then what these are, and it's weird it took them so long to finally move forward with an actual line, rather then just repainting that one Alligator and giving him out at ever Con for the past few years. I actually really liked the original 5" scale "Battle Beasts" they showed off at SDCC 2 years ago, and sort of wish they were producing those instead.

    At this stage, I'm more excited for Takara's new line, and I'm anxious to see more of it.

      • If you go to the 28 minute mark, you can hear Chuck explain how we registered for the trademark after we discovered it had lapsed. (If I said "purchased" in this year's panel, I misspoke, but we did have to pay to register the trademark. There was a check written. :) ) He also explains why we waited — we were waiting to have room on our plates, for the economy to rebound and to have some sort of media tie-in lined up. Hence the IDW series.

  • Something makes me think that I heard that DST only had the rights to make something called "Battle Beasts" without them having anything to do with the old toyline, when the very first announcement came out.
    Either way, like others have said, it's not as if armored bipedal animals are super original, Battle Beasts were just a cool toyline. I'm sure this one will be neat too, especially since it will have a story to go along with it.

  • With the amount of posts this article caused today, there's no denying that interest has been sufficiently stirred.

    • Interest has been stirred in me. Interest in how DST is making toys that are Minimates and ARE NOT Battle Beasts, and though they have publicly stated these Minimates aren't Battle Beasts, they are still trading on that nostalgic bump. I am confused.

    • Well good for you for missing the entire point of Poe’s post and the discussion, and for adding some mean snark to it.

  • Some new images of Takara's upcoming Beastformers have hit the net, and I must say that they look pretty incredible! I'm anxious to learn more about them, and hope that someone imports them to the US for decent prices. I love the designs! Check out the Hamster! Haha!

    There's pics in this thread on He-Man.org. Scroll down towards the bottom. Sorry, I'm not sure where they originate from exactly, so I can't give proper credit. I'm going to see if I can find where the actual news was reported. http://www.he-man.org/forums/boards/showthread.ph

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