History

Copyrights in MOTU (Part One: 1981)


Image source: MOTUC Figures

In previous posts I’ve covered trademarks and patents in Masters of the universe, and organized the material into a cohesive Masters of the Universe Timeline. In this post I’m going to be covering Mattel’s He-Man-related copyrights, sourced from the US Copyright Office, for 1981. Eventually I’ll fold these dates into the MOTU Timeline article as well.

Some of the copyright entries have some interesting details and comments, so I’ll include most of the original text (errors and all), eliminating some redundancies and the registration numbers.  Each entry has multiple dates, but I’ll sort according to “Date of Publication”. I’ll do a separate post for each publication year.

A few notes – the “Date of Publication” for the early toys listed universally as February 15, 1981. The figures were not actually sold that early, or even really close to their final designs. The He-Man project was well underway, however. They may have sometimes just chosen a safe, early date for some of these. I believe that entries that have more unique publication dates are more likely to reflect an actual production or release date. The minicomics in this post all have a publication date of November 28, 1981, which at least sounds plausible as a “printed on” date.

Note also that while the male figures are generally called “figurines”, Teela is referred to as a “doll”, apparently based only the fact that she’s a female figure. In reality, Teela is every bit as much an action figure as He-Man.

1981

February

Type of Work: Visual Material
Registration Date: 1982-11-04
Title: Battle ram : no. 81-3990.
Notes: Cataloged from appl. only.
Date of Creation: 1981
Date of Publication: 1981-02-15

Type of Work: Visual Material
Registration Date: 1982-11-04
Title: Beast Man : [no.] 81-5043.
Description: Figurine.
Date of Creation: 1981
Date of Publication: 1981-02-15

Type of Work: Visual Material
Registration Date: 1982-11-04
Title: He-Man : [no.] 81-5040.
Description: Figurine.
Date of Creation: 1981
Date of Publication: 1981-02-15

Type of Work: Visual Material
Registration Date: 1982-11-04
Title: Man-at-arms : no. 81-5041.
Notes: Cataloged from appl. only.
Date of Creation: 1981
Date of Publication: 1981-02-15

Type of Work: Visual Material
Registration Date: 1982-11-04
Title: Merman : [no.] 81-5046.
Description: Figurine.
Date of Creation: 1981
Date of Publication: 1981-02-15

Type of Work: Visual Material
Registration Date: 1982-11-04
Title: Skeletor : [no.] 81-5042.
Description: Figurine.
Date of Creation: 1981
Date of Publication: 1981-02-15

Type of Work: Visual Material
Registration Date: 1982-11-04
Title: Stratos : [no.] 81-5047.
Description: Figurine.
Date of Creation: 1981
Date of Publication: 1981-02-15

Type of Work: Visual Material
Registration Date: 1982-10-26
Title: Teela : [no.] 5045-81.
Description: Doll.
Date of Creation: 1981
Date of Publication: 1981-02-15

Type of Work: Visual Material
Registration Date: 1982-11-04
Title: Wind raider : [no.] 81-5117.
Description: Sculpture.
Date of Creation: 1981
Date of Publication: 1981-02-15

Type of Work: Visual Material
Registration Date: 1982-11-04
Title: Zodac : no. 81-5044.
Notes: Cataloged from appl. only.
Date of Creation: 1981
Date of Publication: 1981-02-15

Type of Work: Visual Material
Registration Date: 1982-10-25
Title: Castle Grayskull : [no.] 81-3991.
Description: Sculpture.
Date of Creation: 1981
Date of Publication: 1981-02-15

November

Type of Work: Text
Registration Date: 1982-12-28
Title: Masters of the universe
Name: The Vengeance of Skeletor
Description: 22 p.
Date of Creation: 1981
Date of Publication: 1981-11-28

Type of Work: Text
Registration Date: 1982-12-08
Title: Masters of the Universe : He-Man and the power sword.
Description: 26 p.
Date of Creation: 1981
Date of Publication: 1981-11-28
Other Title: He-Man and the power sword

Type of Work: Visual Material
Registration Date: 1982-12-07
Title: King of Castle Grayskull.
Description: 22 p.
Series: Masters of the Universe
Date of Creation: 1981
Date of Publication: 1981-11-28

Type of Work: Visual Material
Registration Date: 1983-01-17
Title: Comics maitres de l’univers : no. 81.
Notes: Cataloged from appl. Only. Appl. states titles on copy: Les Maitres de l’univers; Masters of the universe.
Date of Creation: 1981
Date of Publication: 1981-11-28
Other Title: Les Maitres de l’univers Masters of the universe

Thanks to Miguel A. for inspiring this series!

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13 thoughts on “Copyrights in MOTU (Part One: 1981)

        1. Yeah, that’s a pretty pissy ad! I mean I get their point – He-Man looks so much more powerful by comparison. But still. It’s like Buzz Lightyear vs Woody 🙂

  1. When a small spark starts a big fire or a barely audible sound causes a powerful snow avalanche and then it is pointed out as the cause of everything, that spark and that sound could only say the same thing that I do now when I see this series of posts: “Me? Really?” Congratulations for this work of yours, Adam, and, if there is someone who has to thank the other, that is me: Thank you for making something so minuscule ended up becoming something so broad and useful for all of us…
    This first post of the series would seem to verify the absence of registration of the illustrated book “Battle in the clouds” and about that I still think the same: Curious, is not it? I think I have a possible explanation for that and it is derived from the words of Donad Frank Glut himself:

    «By the way, at least one of the titles was kind of my in jokes. “Battle in the Clouds” was the title of a very old silent science-fiction movie I had in my film collection.»
    [E-Mail interview conducted by Matt Jozwiak on December 14-16, 2001.]

    Apparently, the movie that Glut referred to would be the one that had the exact title “The battle in the clouds”; that is to say the title with which was known in the USA an English short film called “The airship destroyer” (UK, 1.909) and also, somewhat later, a German one whose original title is unknown (Germany, 1.914). In any case, the possibility would be the same: Did Mattel fail to register “Battle in the clouds” because the title “The battle in the clouds” was already registered by that old audiovisual? As far as I understand, now the intellectual registers of words and expressions are made within well defined general categories and, even, within those same categories but with certain explicit exceptions; which would leave open the possibility so that the same word or expression could be applied to two or more different types of products. Having recorded “The battle in the clouds” in 1.909-1.914 for an audiovisual thing would not necessarily mean, then, that it would be impossible to do so for an illustrated book in 1982. Or will it be that in those years registering a word or expression granted a more universal right? Could it be that the intellectual inscription of “The battle in the clouds” was not limited to the categories and exceptions of today? I just do not know, but that could explain why Mattel left without registering one of those four initial illustrated books.

    1. Thank you Miguel, and thank you for your original fascinating insights that lead to this series of posts.

      It may have been the old Battle in the Clouds film that caused them not to register a copyright for it. Copyright, unlike trademarks, endures for quite a long time under US law. I think you might have something there.

      I should note that after a while Mattel stopped bothering to register copyright claims on their minicomic titles. They also did not register a copyright for every action figure they made, although they did register trademarks for almost all of them. But, the fact that Battle In the Clouds is absent, and they did register trademarks for other early minicomics, makes me think the borrowed title may indeed be behind it. 🙂

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