Beginning of the conflict

In 1996, Thai filmmaker Sompote Saengduenchai (who also goes under the name Sompote Sands) claimed that Eiji Tsuburaya‘s son Noboru, who’d passed away the previous year, had granted him all Ultraman copyrights and merchandising rights outside Japan in exchange for a monetary loan.

Although the document did not clarify what exactly had been given to Tsuburaya in exchange for those rights, courts in Japan and Thailand accepted the contract as genuine due to the appearance of Noboru Tsuburaya’s hanko. Tsuburaya Productions insisted that the contract was forged, as several series were mistitled and Tsuburaya Productions was referred to as “Tsuburaya Prod. and Enterprises,” which was never used for company business. The document even erroneously titled Chaiyo’s own co-productions “Hanuman vs. 7 Ultraman” and “Jumborg Ace & Giant” as “Haruman and the Seven Ultraman” and “Giant vs. Jambo ‘A'”, respectively.

Throughout the lawsuit, Sompote claimed that the design of Ultraman’s face had been influenced by photos of Thai Buddhist edifices, which he’d personally shown to Eiji Tsuburaya. No other evidence supporting this claim was known to exist. It was around this time that Chaiyo formed another company, Tsuburaya Chaiyo Co., Ltd., of which Sompote was president.