April 9, 2008

Armor in Court!

I've gotten a number of e-mails regarding this - George Lucas and LFL has sued Andrew Ainsworth, the original maker of the Storm Trooper armor, for selling the armor as costumes without proper liscening. LFL has for years guarded its copyrights very closely, bringing up numerous court battles for infringement. In this instance, the armor was being sold for profit, with Ainsworth saying that he was the owner of the armor, and I believe has counter sued. I personally don't think that he has a case, as he was hired for the job, and was not the owner of the armor. The case was first won in 2006 in the US, and it has now gone over to the UK, where it will likely be resolved.
Armor makers for the 501st, I don't believe will have to worry too much. We have good relations with LFL, and we don't sell our armor for profit.

Here's a couple of articles:

Court to rule in Star Wars costume battle
Sarah Knapton
Monday April 7, 2008
The Guardian

Star Wars premiere in Leicester Square, May 16 2005
'Stormtroopers' gather in Leicester Square for the premiere of Episode III. Photograph: Lefteris Pitarakis/AP
They were Darth Vader's feared henchmen and some of the most recognisable figures in cinematic history. Now the imperial stormtroopers of the Star Wars films are at the centre of a new epic battle.
The British prop designer who created their famous white helmets and body armour is being sued by director George Lucas for £10m in a case starting at the high court tomorrow. Andrew Ainsworth was sued by the director's company, Lucasfilm, after reproducing the outfits from the original moulds and selling them for up to £1,800 each .
Ainsworth is countersuing Lucasfilm for a share of the £6bn merchandising revenue generated since the first film in the series premiered in 1977. The row centres on who actually owns the copyright to the stormtrooper uniforms.
Ainswoth said: "As far as I am concerned I am the original maker and I'm using the original moulds."
The prop designer was recruited to design the outfits in 1976 and sold the firsts 50 helmets to Lucas for £35 each. But in 2004 he discovered one of the original helmets in a cupboard in his home in Twickenham, south-west London and began to manufacture the uniforms.
A message on his website said: "Now's your chance to own your own piece of movie history."
A California court has already ruled in favour of Lucas who was awarded £10m in damages. But because Ainsworth lives in Britain Lucas needs the high court in London to enforce the order.
A spokesman for Lucas Licensing said: "We would never want to discourage fans from showcasing their enthusiasm for the movies. However, anyone who tried to profit from using our copyrights and trademarks without authorisation ... we will go after them."

Lucasfilm Wins Lawsuit Against Stormtrooper Pirate
October 11, 2006

The U.S. District Court for the Central District of California has awarded Lucasfilm Ltd. $20 million in damages in a copyright infringement and unfair competition case against the British firm Shepperton Design Studios and its owner, Andrew Ainsworth.
The court found that Shepperton Design Studios had been marketing unlicensed copies of stormtrooper helmets and costumes, and TIE fighter pilot helmets from the Star Wars films, as well as making misleading claims about the authenticity and origins of these items.
The judgment, by U.S. District Judge R. Gary Klausner, awards damages to Lucasfilm Ltd. for copyright infringement, unfair competition and trademark infringement and permanently bars Shepperton Design Studios from copying, reproducing, importing, licensing, marketing or displaying any of its unauthorized Star Wars products in the United States. Lucasfilm is also pursuing legal action against Shepperton in the U.K., where the company is based, to ensure that the judgment is enforced there.
"Lucasfilm vigorously protects its intellectual property rights in Star Wars," said Howard Roffman, President of Lucas Licensing. "Infringers like Shepperton need to understand that we will pursue them anywhere in the world to shut them down and seek restitution."
Roffman noted that many Star Wars fans around the world produce replicas of Star Wars costumes for their own personal use and enjoyment, an activity to which Lucasfilm Ltd. has no objection. One such group, the "501st Legion" of stormtroopers, is a global organization that has often worked with Lucasfilm and its partners. "We appreciate that Star Wars has sparked the imaginations of fans around the world," he said. "We would never want to discourage fans from showcasing their enthusiasm for the movies. However, anyone who tries to profit from using our copyrights and trademarks without authorization crosses the line; they become an infringer and we will go after them."

Stormtrooper In Court For Star Wars Legal Fight
Published: April 8, 2008

Filed at 9:08 p.m. ET
LONDON (Reuters) - A judge in a wig and gown gazed down on a Stormtrooper costume and nine masks from the "Star Wars" films at London's High Court on Tuesday at the start of a high-profile copyright case.
George Lucas, creator of the blockbuster intergalactic sagas, and his billion-dollar merchandising arm are suing Andrew Ainsworth, a small-scale prop designer who sells replicas of the film characters from his southwest London studio.
Lucasfilm and related parties have already won a 2006 court case against Ainsworth in California, where the judge awarded the firm $20 million (10.1 million pounds) in damages, and they are now seeking to have a similar ruling enforced here.
According to a short summary of the case provided by Ainsworth's lawyers, he argues that the copyright on the items in the courtroom has expired, and even if it has not, that he owns it, and not Lucas.
"Hence the defendants are counterclaiming in respect of unauthorized making and issue, distribution and sale of toys and costumes which are copies of the disputed items."
Michael Bloch, lawyer for Lucasfilm Ltd, opened proceedings by arguing that the design for the Stormtroopers and other key characters from the films were well advanced by the time Ainsworth was asked to produce the costumes in 1976.
"By the time Mr. Ainsworth was brought in to make the Stormtrooper helmet, the look to be created had been worked on by a large number of people for perhaps more than a year," he said.
The designs "were pretty well fixed in 1975 and they involve the initial idea of George Lucas worked on then by Ralph McQuarrie and others." McQuarrie was the conceptual artist and design consultant for the original "Star Wars" trilogy.
At stake are the rights to merchandise worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
Total merchandising revenue since the first Star Wars movie in 1977 is estimated at around $12 billion, and total box office takings from the six movies is about $4 billion.
As well as the full Stormtrooper costume, masks of characters including a TIE fighter pilot and Tusken Raider were arranged on the front bench of the court room.
Ainsworth sells his replicas of the Stormtrooper helmet and armor, as well the masks for an array of other key characters, from Shepperton Design Studios.
The full set of armor normally retails at 995 pounds ($2,000), although the company does not supply U.S. customers.
Lucas' side is expected to argue that Ainsworth was working for the studio under an implied contract, whereas the prop designer counters that "no written contract was entered into and Andrew Ainsworth was not employed by Lucasfilm."
There may also be legal debate over whether the uniforms were industrial design or works of art, which could affect the length of copyright protection.
The case, expected to last for 10 days, continues.

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