Big West, Studio Nue, and Harmony Gold USA announced on Friday that the companies agreed to allow the immediate distribution of most Macross television sequels and films. The agreement signed on March 1 also confirms that Big West “will not oppose the Japanese release of an anticipated upcoming live-action Robotech film.” Big West will no longer contest Harmony Gold USA’s exclusive license with Tatsunoko for the use of 41 Macross characters and mecha designs in the Robotech television series and related merchandise outside Japan. The companies agreed to cooperate on the distribution of future Macross and Robotech projects.
Studio Nue launched the Macross franchise in 1982 with The Super Dimension Fortress Macross, a television anime series featuring the themes of a love triangle, music, and transforming fighter planes. Studio Nue worked with the advertising agency Big West and the anime studio Tatsunoko Production as production partners.
The franchse spawned three more television series (Macross 7. Macross Frontier, and Macross Delta), several theatrical films (starting with The Super Dimension Fortress Macross: Do You Remember Love?), and several video series (including Macross II, Macross Plus, Macross Dynamite 7, and Macross Zero). Macross Delta ran from April to September of 2016, after a preview of the first episode in 2015. A new Macross Delta feature film and a new Macross Frontier short will open this year.
Tatsunoko licensed various rights to the first Macross series, as well as the two anime series Mospeada and Southern Cross, to the licensing company Harmony Gold USA in 1984. Harmony Gold edited and rewrote the three shows into its 85-episode Robotech series in 1985. Harmony Gold went on to produce sequels, including 1986’s Robotech II: The Sentinels and 2006’s Robotech: The Shadow Chronicles.
Harmony Gold also signed two live-action motion picture deals: in 2007 with Warner Bros. and in 2016 with Columbia Pictures. No live-action films have yet been released, but Jason Fuchs (Wonder Woman) was writing a script for a Robotech film.
In a 1991 agreement, Tatsunoko granted Harmony Gold USA the exclusive right to exploit 36 episodes of Macross, 25 episodes of Mospeada, and 23 episodes of Southern Cross, for 10 years. The two companies extended the agreement in 1998, 2002, and then 2019.
Around 1998, Big West filed against Tatsunoko, claiming it, not Tatsunoko, had the rights to make sequels to Macross. A 2003 court decision ruled in favor of Tatsunoko — notably saying that Tatsunoko had the right to license Macross to Harmony Gold — but Big West retains the rights to 41 of the original designs used in the series.
As a result of these proceedings, Tatsunoko and Harmony Gold’s agreement in 1998 revoked Harmony Gold’s right to make sequels to the three shows in question, but the 2002 agreement restored them for Mospeada and Southern Cross only. A 2003 agreement restored Harmony Gold’s right to make derivative works of Macross, except with the designs owned by Big West. Tatsunoko disputed this 2003 agreement in its counterclaims, but the court upheld the agreement as valid.
Also as a result of these litigation, Tatsunoko asked Harmony Gold to protect Macross trademarks outside of Japan, and agreed that Harmony Gold could deduct legal fees from royalties paid to Tatsunoko. Tatsunoko also disputed this agreement in its counterclaims, but again the court ruled in favor of Harmony Gold.