Chinese Courts: Mecard doesn’t violate Bakugan patents, but Sky Warrior does
In what Choirock is calling a “complete victory,” the Guangzhou Intellectual Property Court in China has dismissed a patent infringement case against Mecard. Bakugan maker Spin Master filed a lawsuit in 2016, alleging the Mecard toyline violated technology it developed. Spin Master appealed the decision, but the Chinese court upheld the verdict last month and the case is now closed.
Originally debuting in South Korea in 2015 and quickly becoming that country’s “it” toy, Mecard was created by Sono Kong (who formerly distributed Bakugan toys in the region) and IP creation house Choirock. The toyline features cars that transform after being rolled onto a magnetic card. The franchise has been supported heavily with animation. The first animated series was co-developed by Atsushi Maekawa, who previously served as the lead writer on the original Bakugan Battle Brawlers anime series. The most recent iteration, Bbasha Mecard, launched last month.
“Choirock owns patents related to the world’s first mechanism for transforming a toy by lifting up a card, the bottom surface of which is exposed after transformation,” stated a representative of Choirock. “Mecard is the best-selling toy brand in Korea. Choirock has exerted every effort to protect our innovative transforming mechanism around the world and will continue to strengthen our intellectual property. Choirock expects our competitors to respect our intellectual property and will take strong measures against any infringer of Choirock’s intellectual property.”
Mecard was distributed in China by GuangZhou Lingdong Creative (LCDX) under the name Amazing Car (魔幻车神). Spin Master is in a legal dispute with LCDX, claiming its Eonster Hunter brand also infringes on their Bakugan patents.
Spin Master had also launched litigation against the Mecard toyline in Australia, Canada, Mexico and the United States. The defendants in those cases were Mattel, the franchise’s distributor in those markets. We’ve heard the lawsuits have been settled out of court, though an official announcement hasn’t been made.
Sky Warrior found in violation
The Chinese courts agreed with Spin Master in another case, though. In March 2018, the Canadian toy company filed a lawsuit in the Hangzhou Intermediate People’s Court against Suzhou Hongtu Film Animation. The suit alleged that the company’s Sky Warrior (空天战队) toyline infringed on Bakugan’s patents.
The court agreed with Spin Master, demanding that production and sale of the infringing Sky Warrior toys cease. Spin Master was also awarded RMB 300,000 (approx. USD $44,100) in compensation. Hongtu appealed the decision, but the court came to the same conclusion.
The Sky Warriors toys debuted in late 2017 and were joined by a 52 x 22-minute animated series by the same name. A theatrical film, called Star Beast War, is scheduled to be released in China in May. No word on how this verdict will impact that.
Ben Gadbois, Spin Master’s Global President and COO stated: “We expect our competitors to respect Spin Master’s intellectual property and will take forceful steps if we believe our rights are being infringed.”
Chris Harrs, Spin Master’s General Counsel and Corporate Secretary added: “Given Spin Master’s plans to distribute the Bakugan TV series in China and sell the associated toys, we are very pleased that the validity and enforceability of the Bakugan patent has been tested and we would expect that such positive results will make our future enforcement efforts easier.”
In January, Spin Master settled a separate Bakugan patent infringement case with Alpha Group. The Chinese company agreed to pull its line of Screechers Wild toys from stores across Canada, the United Kingdom and United States.
The original Bakugan: Battle Brawlers anime launched in 2007 on TV Tokyo in Japan and Teletoon in Canada, before rolling out internationally in 2008. An immediate hit upon its global debut, the series ran for four seasons, encompassing 189 half-hour episodes before concluding in 2012. The original generation of the property was also a Canada-Japan co-production, between Spin Master, Nelvana, TMS Entertainment, Sega Toys and Japan-Vistec. The Japan-only CG-animated spinoff series Baku Tech! Bakugan ran in 2012/2013.