Big West, Studio Nue, and Harmony Gold USA have announced that the companies agreed to allow the immediate distribution of most Macross television sequels and films. The agreement signed on March 1, 2021 also confirms that Big West “will not oppose the Japanese release of an anticipated upcoming live-action Robotech film.” Big West will not contest Harmony Gold USA’s exclusive license with Tatsunoko for the use of the 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. Studio Nue worked with the advertising agency Big West and the anime studio Tatsunoko Production as production partners. The franchise spawned three more television series, several theatrical films, and several video series.
Tatsunoko licensed various rights to the first Macross series, Genesis Climber Mospeada, and The Super Dimension Cavalry 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. As of this writing, no live-action films have yet been released.
In a 1991 agreement, Tatsunoko granted Harmony Gold USA the exclusive right to exploit 36 episodes of Macross, along with 25 episodes of Mospeada and 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 a lawsuit against Tatsunoko, claiming it, not Tatsunoko, had the rights to make sequels to Macross. A 2003 court decision ruled in favor of Tatsunoko, 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 the 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.