The Conan story is kind of simultaneously true and untrue, as unhelpful as they may sound.
|Posted: January 12 2018 at 2:40pm | IP Logged | 3
By the end of the 70s, Conan had become very successful: Marvel was selling decent numbers of Conan comics and Edward R Pressman acquired the rights to make a film version from Conan Properties Inc, Dino De Laurentis took over and Unviersal provided a large part of the funding for the movie. Filming began in Autumn 1980 (and obviously production would have begun before this).
Knowing this was going on, Mattel asked some of their designers to come up with a fantasy barbarian character in early 1981. There were no firm plans that this would be Conan or even directly based on Conan. They did, however, look into the possibility of licensing Conan rights from CPI, with draft documentation going back and forth from May 1981 leading to an actual deal at the end of that summer. While this was going on, Mattel had progressed with their barbarian doll, producing various He-Man bodies and heads.
A Mattel memo from April 1981, arguing in favour of signing a licensing deal with CPI: "If the movie becomes popular, (even though it is `R'), or the TV series becomes reality in late '82, the trade could well react more strongly to the Conan line than the He-Man line or at least be confused as to where their emphasis should be. This could well cause failure of our line. We can't allow this to occur."
In short, Mattel and CPI didn't get on very well and after Mattel saw the movie in September 1981 and in December 1981 gave a warning that they would only proceed with a Conan doll if the movie was cut to remove the heavy violence. Some changes to the film were made, but Mattel were still not happy and ploughed on with their He-Man line, releasing it in early 1982.
CPI, when they saw the toy at a toy fair in February 1982, decided it was based on Conan. In April 1982 Mattel and CPI terminated their licensing agreement.
CPI then sued Mattel for copyright infringement, trademark infringement, unfair competition, dilution, breach of contract and fraud. Mattel countersued.
The court basically accepted Mattel's argument that a fantasy barbarian was generic enough that He-Man did not infringe on Conan's copyright, dismissing CPI's claims for copyright and trademark infringment.
Edited by Peter Martin on January 12 2018 at 2:42pm