Star Wars: May the IP be with you!
17 April 2015 by Ashton Carter
With the second ‘teaser trailer’ of the new upcoming Star Wars film having been recently released, many Star Wars fans and enthusiasts will be eagerly awaiting the film’s release date, despite the various delays in production and disputes that have surrounded its completion.
Prior to the films release, and even prior to production of the film itself, the troubles of its creator: George Lucas in securing the ownership of his ideas, designs and creations were apparent for all to see.
This was most notable when Mr Lucas lost his appeal hearing in the Supreme Court against Andrew Ainsworth, which revolved around which party was the true creator of the ‘Stormtrooper’ and in particular, their unique helmet design.
As part of the Supreme Court’s decision, Mr Ainsworth was permitted to continue to sell replicas of the iconic helmet. This was ruled after Mr Ainsworth convinced the Judges hearing the case in the Supreme Court that the creation of the Stormtrooper costumes and even the costumes themselves, were functional not artistic works, and therefore, not subject to copyright laws.
Although such ruling was caveated by the Supreme Court’s decision that Mr Ainsworth had violated such copyright in the US, the decision marked a historic moment that brought to the attention of all film creators, writers and owners, the need to protect their ideas and designs.
The decision of the Supreme Court demonstrates that such ideas and designs can be extremely lucrative, especially in relation to unique works that may be utilised in films – including sequels, merchandise, cartoon spin-offs and associated works. Had Mr Lucas or the owners of the Star Wars franchise at the time (prior to its purchase by Disney) registered the design rights or other intellectual property capable of registration, in the Stormtrooper costumes and helmet design, perhaps the situation in this case could have been avoided.
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