Welcome, Genin! In today’s lesson, we will be exploring both trademark and copyright Jitsu in the popular series, Naruto, to demonstrate the various options artists and companies have when looking to protect their creations.
In 1997, Masashi Kishimoto released the first Naruto manga, a one-shot of the now-successful manga/anime series. In 1999, the second, long-running version was published and quickly grew to become one of the most popular manga in the world.
Now the fourth best-selling manga in history, the anime adaptation has achieved even more success as the most-watched anime by large margins. The question is, who owns Naruto’s intellectual property and how did it make its way over to the United States?
Intellectual Property Licensing Tournament
There are multiple entities involved in bringing different forms of Naruto content to consumers. Outside of the Naruto manga and anime, there are video games, clothing, toys, collectibles and other products available.
The rights to these products are scattered among a variety of different entities, all originating in Masashi Kishimoto’s original creation. Let’s take a look at the power of licensing someone’s creative works and how far that can stretch!
The Power of IP Licensing
Rights to the manga are co-owned by Kishimoto and the Japanese publishing company Shueisha, whereas Pierott is the animation studio behind the anime. However, anime and manga are distributed to the United States by Viz Media.
Shueisha happens to be one of the parent organizations of Viz Media. Therefore, Shueisha employs Kishimoto, publishes the manga, and has a hand in distributing Naruto, and many other anime, to the western world.
Sealing the Nine-Tailed Fox
After understanding Shueisha’s involvement in Naruto, it is no surprise to see that they own the United States trademark rights for the popular series with eight live pending trademark applications or active trademark registrations.
Shueisha is one of the most successful manga companies in Japan, their trademark portfolio extending far beyond Naruto. Collectively, the publishing company has over 100 trademark registrations that are either active or pending.
These include popular anime such as Dragon Ball Z, Demon Slayer, One Piece and YU-GI-OH. Their Naruto trademarks extend beyond manga and anime to goods and services such as comic books, stationery, toys, entertainment services, clothes, video games and more.
A Successful Mission
Shueisha’s ownership of Naruto trademarks is not unique when it comes to manga publishing companies. In fact, the four most popular Japanese manga companies hold similar trademark rights in the United States for their manga and relative anime series.
These registrations allow companies to protect their brands by preventing others from using confusingly similar names on related products and services. Don’t expect to see any Naruto brands out there that are not owned by Shueisha or Kishimoto.
All in all, there are intellectual property rights behind all the entertainment and media that we consume nowadays. When you release your next hit manga, book, and/or television show, make sure to protect it with the not-so-hidden Jitsu that is intellectual property!
Obtaining intellectual property licensing is an important step in protecting your ideas and brands. This story illustrates how a creative work – a manga – could grow into its own brand and branch into other areas involving intellectual property. At Wilson Dutra, we understand the importance of this process, and we’re here to answer all your questions along the way. Contact us to schedule your free IP evaluation today.