Michael’s Estate has challenged a Japanese company, Michael Jackson Asian Rights Co. who say they have the rights to use Michael’s image on a mobile phone that supposedly will help the world’s children.
Zia Modabber, a lawyer for the Estate, said he was contacted within the last month by Richard Ryosuke Matsuura, the vice president of the Tokyo-based Michael Jackson Asian Rights Co. Modabber said Matsuura offered to sell the merchandising rights back to the estate, but Modabber declined. The Estate will now explore its options for contesting the company’s claims. “I am telling you unequivocally, these people do not have the rights they claim to have,” Modabber told The Associated Press in an interview.
The latest dispute emerged yesterday, the day after the estate challenged a Japanese film distributor over campaign materials that said a documentary on Michael’s life was authorized, when it was not. The estate said the distributor had agreed to take down the campaign materials ahead of the film’s debut yesterday, on more than one-hundred and twenty-five screens in Japan.
A Japanese company called mThink Inc. issued a press release about its plans to sell a mobile phone service in partnership with the Michael Jackson Asian Rights Co. The service, called “Michael Jackson MOBILE for the children,” would include a branded handset and pre-installed application with special Michael digital content. Use of the application would generate funds intended to be donated to the world’s children, it said.
Phone calls to mThink and the Michael Jackson Asian Rights Co. went unanswered early Saturday morning Japan time.
Modabber said Matsuura’s claim may have stemmed from dealings that his father, Ryosuke Matsuura, who had dealings with Michael in 1998.
The two had developed business plans together, but a final contract wasn’t completed, said Modabber, who was Michael’s lawyer at the time and is now employed by the estate.
The deal was meant to assign rights for ten years only and cover only certain projects including a theme park, hotel and toy store, he said.
Universal Music Group’s Bravado unit currently manages the rights for Michael’s merchandise in Japan.