Storm Trooper Copyright Lawsuit Back On In the UK

from the in-a-galaxy-far,-far-away dept

Last year we wrote about a copyright fight between George Lucas/Lucasfilm and Andrew Ainsworth, the guy who created the original costumes for the storm troopers in Star Wars. Ainsworth believes that he has every right to now sell storm trooper costumes. Lucas, and his licensing empire, feel otherwise. It got to the ridiculous level of Ainsworth claiming that Lucas actually owed him money, for all the free merchandising Ainsworth has done for the various Star Wars movies by selling his costumes. Eventually, the High Court in the UK tossed out Lucas’ claims, saying that the costumes were not works of art and not covered by copyright in the UK. It did note that there may have been copyright infringement in the US, but said that Ainsworth was immune from a US court ruling on the subject since his US sales were not that big.

Apparently, Lucasfilm isn’t happy about this and is appealing the ruling, claiming that the storm trooper costumes are indeed works of art, like sculptures. The whole thing, frankly, seems like a waste of time. Is it really that big of a concern to Lucasfilm if the guy who created the original costumes is selling them himself?

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Comments on “Storm Trooper Copyright Lawsuit Back On In the UK”

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Christopher Gizzi (profile) says:

Other IP Rights At Stake?

While I can agree that the costumes don’t appear to be a work of art, are their other IP rights Lucasfilm could reference in their favor? I’m playing devil’s advocate here but with real curiosity.

Could Lucas argue that the Stormtrooper name is a trademark of Lucasfilm and, should Ainsworth want to create a replica of the Stormtrooper costume to sell, he can’t call the name? I’d think that Ainsworth marketing a non-Lucas Stormtrooper costume would cause confusion and dilute the trademark of the stormtrooper and Star Wars name/brand/likeness.

I’m obviously not a UK (or US for that matter) legal expert but I know that if I came across Ainsworth’s Stormtrooper costumes, I could think they are official Lucasfilm merchandise and, might place value on it I wouldn’t have otherwise. I recognize the circumstances around acquiring the costume might change this but, still. How can one not be confused by two different (but alike) Stormtrooper costumes?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Other IP Rights At Stake?

“Imperial Stormtrooper” maybe, but “Stormtrooper” by itself–maybe Lucas needs to pay Major Calsow, the Eighth army, or the German WWI War Ministry.
If anyone has rights to the word, prior use pretty much excludes Lucas unless he filed a Trademark for its application to a specific product.

Richard (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Don’t think they could get away with trying to trademark Storm Trooper as the term has been in use since, according to, the 1920’s.

Unfortunately they can – however if you produce a copy of a German uniform from the 1930’s and call it Stormtrooper then they can’t sue. On the other hand if it looks like the Star Wars costume then they can.

BJ says:

Re: The Frak?

The 501st Legion has a very special working relationship with Lucasfilm where they (501st) are able to use their (Lucasfilm’s) IP under authorisation on the condition that any of the costumes they may create are not to be sold for profit (which is what Mr Ainsworth does). This agreement is mostly in place due to the massive charity works the 501st are involved with.
From my understanding Mr Ainsworth did not even create the entire costume in the first place but rather only a part of it, so it were to come down to interpretation he should only be able to sell that part that he designed and created himself.

RD says:

Another one

Another good example of copyright and trademark laws being used to PREVENT the spread of culture, instead of encouraging it. To wit:

– Lucas has NO DESIRE to EVER make stormtrooper outfits for people to buy
– There is a pretty good demand for such items
– Someone steps in to fill the demand in the marketplace
– Someone is sued to prevent them from filling an obvious demand
– Lucas, if he wins, then gets to lock out anyone else from making these but his company. Since he WONT make them, it means NO ONE makes them, QED.

So, if this all comes to pass, the consumer loses, this guy loses, Lucas gets to be a bully and then NOT fill a demand that the consumer has HANDED to him. Copyright and Trademark abuse FTW! Just as the founders intended.

Michael Kohne says:

Lucas just wants total control...

over anything related to Star Wars. And he (well, the company as a whole anyway) will do anything they can to retain any measure of control that they can get over the material in any form. Every time they win one of these lawsuits (no matter what the underlying product they squash), they can use that victory to bolster other claims later.

I wish this guy the best – I don’t think it’s reasonable for Lucas to be able to prevent others from selling Star Wars costumes (as long as they don’t pretend to be authorized by Lucas).

Anonymous Coward says:

I seem to remember reading something along the lines of the MPAA claiming that more money is made on merchandising than on box office or dvd sales. In that case it makes sense for Lucas to chase down these costumes – think of all of the lost sales.

Also, why try to make and sell a good product when you can let someone else do all of the work and sell the product and then sue the crap out of them? Calling your lawyer is sure a lot eaiser than producing something that people want to buy, especially when you can win and the other guy will pay for your lawyer too.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: surely

“A work made for hire (sometimes abbreviated as work for hire and WFH) is an exception to the general rule that the person who actually creates a work is the legally-recognized author of that work. According to copyright law in the United States and certain other copyright jurisdictions, if a work is “made for hire”, the employer—not the employee—is considered the legal author. In some countries, this is known as corporate authorship. The incorporated entity serving as an employer may be a corporation or other legal entity, an organization, or an individual.”

If the author/creator was the IP rights holder, think of how many animated characters, mascots, sitcom characters, etc would be practically worthless to the company that actually PAYS for the stuff to be created.

John Hudgens (user link) says:

This guy did NOT create the Stormtrooper costumes

Ainsworth has falsely claimed to be the creator of the stormtrooper armor. The truth of the matter is that Ralph McQuarrie came up with the design, while Nick Pemberton and Liz Moore created the original clay sculpts for Lucas, all prior to any involvement from Ainsworth, who was only hired to fabricate multiple copies for costume use in the film.

In fact, while the original British judge ruled that Andrew Ainsworth violated U.S. copyright, but not British copyright, a most telling thing was this statement: “I do not accept Mr Ainsworth’s evidence on this point. I think that his factual case is born of a combination of loss of recollection over time, and his propensity to claim credit for greater creativity than he in fact demonstrated.”

Ainsworth may claim to be a victim, but that’s hardly the case. He’s recently offered up reproductions of the original stormtrooper blasters as well, again claiming to be the creator, when in fact the props were developed by armorer Bapty’s, not Ainsworth.

The man deserves to get taken to the cleaners by Lucasfilm.

Revwillie56 says:

Lucas Legal Department

Legal Departments like to see red while creating red for the Company they work for. Lucas Films Legal Department doesn’t see the greater black; While Ainsworth wasn’t the great inventor, Lucas Films should help Ainsworth sell the “art” and get a piece of the profit. Ainsworth would do the job he created, making him happy. Lucas Films would get more black to invest in other creativities. And people across the Globe would start being called Stormtroopers instead of Trekkies. And the media will still fail to understand the concept, “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery” (It boggles the mind what BS the media cooks up because they don’t understand something)

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