What become the Unseen issue and ended with what it has been called by fans the Unseen lawsuits was that when FASA created Battletech they decided that rather than create their own original robot art, they would to use already-extant designs that had originally been created for a variety of different Japanese anime, including Dougram, Crusher Joe, and Macross. The rights to these images were licensed from Twentieth Century Imports (TCI), although the issue of whether TCI had the right to license the images to FASA was not taken up by the court nor was it ever resolved. In later years, FASA abandoned these images as a result of a lawsuit brought against them by Playmates Toys and Harmony Gold over the use of said images.
In 2007, Classic BattleTech line developer Randall N. Bills explained that FASA had sued Playmates over the use of images owned by FASA. Although Playmates was not ordered to do so by the court, they stopped using the images in question. FASA also received no financial compensation from Playmates. FASA realized that the use of licensed images made them vulnerable to lawsuits and worried that such a suit would bankrupt the company. Following the suit, FASA made the decision to use only images that they owned in future products.
The anime-sourced BattleMechs continued to be referenced in-universe, but their images were no longer seen in new sourcebooks. This led them to be termed by fans as "the Unseen". When Fantasy Productions licensed the property, these "Unseen" images were expanded to include all art produced "out-of-house" – that is, whose copyrights resided with the creators, not the company. Catalyst Game Labs has continued this practice, started in Record Sheets: Phoenix Upgrades.
- Legal decision
- Record Sheets: Phoenix Upgrades