Wednesday, November 26, 2008

UFC Action Figures Could Offer a Whole New Licensing Headache, and Just in Time for the Holidays

The UFC’s twenty-four-hour tantrum over Jon Fitch’s refusal to sign away lifetime rights to his video game image has now subsided, but that doesn’t mean all such licensing issues are so easily resolved. According to a new article on CBS Sportsline, Round 5 says they've already locked up the exclusive rights to some of the action figures that the UFC was hoping to roll out under their deal with JAKKS Pacific. I smell trouble a-brewin'.

As you may recall, Round 5 announced their first line of fighter figures with the signature oversized head and hands well before Dana White went on CNBC to announce his deal with JAKKS. Now Round 5 creator Damon Lau tells CBS that some of the prototypes the UFC has been showing off won’t be hitting stores:

"All I can say is that there's a likelihood -- well not a likelihood, but there's a fact -- that some of those figurines can not actually go into production," Lau said. "I've seen the prototypes as well, but the rights to those guys have been already signed over to our company."

Lau declined to identify all of the UFC figure prototypes that he felt would violate a Round 5 MMA exclusivity clause, with the exception of saying that the Randy Couture prototype depicted at the recent toy fair would be a violation.
"I've seen prototypes online, but unfortunately yeah, that does preclude him (Couture) from being part of that program," he said.

Lau went on to say that the UFC was “totally cool about it” and said that because the JAKKS figurines are more aimed at kids while the Round 5 figurines are collectibles for a more adult market, he thinks there should be room on the shelves for both.

"I wouldn't be surprised that when Jakks releases their product, that we'll be side by side (on shelves), simply because of the fact that the product is completely different," Lau said.

"We haven't had any problems as of yet, and we don't foresee any problems in the future. We think it's a great market and there should be room for everybody."

Maybe he’s right. I hope he is. But this ‘room in the market for everyone’ stuff, that doesn’t sound like anything we’ve heard come out of Dana White’s mouth recently. The UFC banned MMA Authentics simply for getting the Wal-Mart deal that they wanted for themselves. If you’re looking for signs that the UFC is willing to share a piece of the pie with competitors in any realm of their business, you might be looking for a long time.

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