Star Wars Day is coming.
In case you were thinking of getting on the bandwagon and using the Star Wars theme (or anything slightly related to Star Wars) in connection with your business, think carefully. Lucasfilm Limited, which was purchased by Disney in 2012 for a reported $US4.05bn, is well known for fiercely protecting its IP, Boba Fett style. Here are some of our favourite Lucas actions taken to date:
- In 1985, Lucas (unsuccessfully) sued a company that was working with the US Government on researching and funding space-based laser missiles and battlestations. The media had dubbed the initiative the “Star Wars” project, a term the Company started to use as shorthand for the initiative.
- In 2000, one day after Dr Dre demanded that Napster remove all of his songs from their service because it infringed his copyright – a division of Lucas sued him for copyright infringement of their THX “Deep Note” sound in one of his tracks. The good Dr settled the action for an undisclosed sum.
- In 2001, Lucas (unsuccessfully, after an appeal) sued the UK prop designer who made the stormtrooper helmet used in the original 1977 film for copyright infringement because he was selling, years later, replica helmets on his website.
- In 2001, Lucas (unsuccessfully) sued the makers of Starballz, an animated, hentaiinspired Star Wars parody porn movie, alleging that consumers could be confused into thinking that Lucas sponsored or produced the X-rated film. The producers of Starballz thought that was so funny they filed a $140 million countersuit for defamation.
- In 2010, Lucas sued a small US tech company, Jedi Mind technology, asserting that Lucas owned “all characteristics associated with the Jedi knights not memorialised in a registered trade mark (including) Jedi robes, the lightsaber weapon, the power to levitate objects, a telepathic oneness with other Jedi and the universe, and the ability to shoot energy beams called ‘Force Lightning’ from the fingertips.” The Company eventually agreed to change its name to put an end to the dispute.
Finally, and most disappointingly, Lucas gave its best Yoda frown to a number of fans who initiated crowd-funding initiatives to build a life size AT-AT walker, the Death Star and a fleet of X-wing fighters. They said much to learn you still have IP infringers! A little bit of creative appropriation (a much nicer term than IP infringement, we think) is not such a bad thing, but there are some empires you really don’t want to annoy.