Toho, the Japanese film studio known for producing dozens of Godzilla movies over the past six decades, said that Honda had unauthorized using of Godzilla's likeness in a commercial for the Odyssey minivan earlier this year.
The TV spot, set to the whining strains of heavy metal guitar and pyrotechnic explosions, aims to convince young male drivers that minivans not only are convenient but downright cool. A head shot of the fire-breathing Godzilla appears opposite an image of the rock band Judas Priest to demonstrate the vehicle's split screen onboard video entertainment system. Don't blink if you want to catch it. "The van beckons like no van before," the voice-over intones.
Toho filed suit February the 2 in Los Angeles federal district court looking for a sanction against Honda's use of Godzilla, said Junichi Tamaki, a Toho spokesman in Tokyo.
"We took a legal action because Godzilla was used without authorization in the Odyssey commercial," Tamaki said. "It is an infringement of copyright."
This isn't the first time Godzilla's guardians have gone to the courts. His legal team has wiped out countless would-be co-opters, including fast-food chains, toymakers, publishers, wineries or rock bands, like so many cardboard Japanese cities.
A Honda spokesman said he couldn't comment on pending litigation. But he added that Honda has not suspended the creature feature commercial.