Trademarks

Lucasfilm Suing Lightsaber Academy, The New York Jedi for Star Wars Trademark Infringements

May the govt force be with you.

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via NewYorkJedi.com

Lucasfilm, a subsidiary of the Walt Disney Company and the creator and producer of the Star Wars film, has filed a federal lawsuit over intellectual property infringement against the proprietor of the Lightsaber Academy, which describes itself as "a consortium for academic, stage combat, and sport dueling lightsaber instructors" and the New York Jedi, "a community of Cosplayers, martial artists and teachers, who share practical Stage Combat techniques oriented toward Light Sabers."

The lawsuit allege that the proprietor, Michael Brown, and the company that runs the two enterprises, Thrills and Skills Inc., are infringing on registered trademarks belonging to LucasFilm (namely, "lightsaber" and "Jedi") as well as engaging in unfair competition, diluting the Star Wars trademarks, and "cybersquatting" by having registered websites using the trademarked words. The lawsuit singles out the Lightsaber Academy's practice of selling instructor and director certificates which "purport to license others to offer additional 'Lightsaber' classes," as well as Brown's attempt to register a trademark for "Lightsaber Academy," which seems like a particularly provocative move from someone whose business relies on intellectual property restrictions not being enforced too strictly.

In addition to the claims of misappropriation of the words lightsaber and Jedi, the lawsuit also claims the logo used by the Lightsaber Academy is an infringement of the Jedi logo created by Lucasfilm:

from lawsuit

Attorneys for Lucasfilm also argue in the lawsuit that because of sales and advertising by Lucasflim and the companies licensing the use of their intellectual property as well as "longstanding consumer recognitions," the trademarks themselves "are widely recognized as source-identifiers of, and for, authorized Lucasfilm products and services." The argument is specious—it's hard to imagine a reasonable person assuming a product or service was licensed by Lucasfilm because it has the word lightsaber or Jedi in it, both being words that have entered a cultural lexicon wider than the world of Star Wars. The near universal practice of explicitly identifying licensed merchandise as such would also suggest that most people do not assume merchandise is licensed simply because it is in some way related to a licensable franchise. Global retail sales of officially licensed merchandise rose 4.2 percent in the last year in part on the strength of the new Star Wars film, according to the Licensing Industry Merchandisers Association, as Variety reported when the industry group held their annual licensing expo this summer.

The lawsuit also claims that Brown and the other defendants "repeatedly sought license or authority from Lucasfilm to engage" in their activities, and that they received multiple cease and desist letters from Lucasfilm. The websites for the Lightsaber Academy and the New York Jedi include disclaimers about not being affiliated with Lucasfilm, Star Wars, or Disney. "And while we are not specifically Star Wars-centric, we do rely heavily on many of the principles and training used by that of the Jedi Order," the "about" page of the New York Jedi website explains. "Mental focus, martial arts training, universal knowledge, and creating your own costume, err… robes."

The lawsuit was filed Friday in a U.S. district court in San Francisco. The defendants have not yet commented publicly on the suit.

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118 responses to “Lucasfilm Suing Lightsaber Academy, The New York Jedi for Star Wars Trademark Infringements

  1. “The power to destroy a planet is insignificant next to the power of a lawsuit.”

    1. Don’t try to frighten us with your lawyer’s ways, Lord Shit! Your sad devotion to that ancient law has not helped you conjure up a torr, or given you clairvoyance enough to find the defendant’s hidden fort-..

      1. Tort, not torr. God dammit.

        1. Oh, I thought you got hit with a temporary injunction to stop speaking.

      2. I find your lack of a law degree disturbing.

    2. The defense team should hire J.J. Abrams, so they could just reboot the trial if it’s not going well. Although there is high probability that the new trial will go exactly the same way as the previous trial.

  2. Lucas was already very protective of the franchise, now that Disney’s got it, they’ll nuke them from orbit.

    1. It’s the only way to be sure.

    2. they’ll nuke them from orbit

      There may be a small but exploitable vulnerability…

  3. Well, it’s clear the Jedi Academy logo was piggy-backing off the official logo. Question is, who even knew that the official logo existed? I’ve spent more time than a human being should in the SW universe and I don’t remember seeing that logo before.

    1. Speaking as someone who attended a wedding where some of the people who had played a SW Universe RPG online waay before MMORPGs where a thing, and were meeting in person for the first time, I bet at least 3 of the 5 would have known.

    2. … I am sad. I have seen it before, and I remember where.

      1. I’ve seen it as a sticker on someone’s car.

    3. Indeed. It seems difficult to prove damage to the brand with use of a derivative of a trademark that nobody recognizes.

    4. I’ve spent more time than a human being should in the SW universe and I don’t remember seeing that logo before.

      Then you obviously spent enough time. I’ve seen it several places before. In several games, and I vaguely recall it being visible in some scenes in the prequels or maybe in The Clone Wars series. I’m not sure where exactly I first saw it though because it’s fairly ubiquitous. Except maybe for the original series since the Jedi were all but extinct then.

      1. *haven’t*

        God damn, I can’t type for shit.

      2. I’ll should point out that most of that additional exposure came in the 90s via the EU novels, where obviously pictures aren’t a thing. I also played several SW games, but I don’t remember seeing it. Maybe I did see it and it didn’t stick.

        1. Hey, Thrawn is coming back. So there is pearl in the mountain of swill.

    5. I recently saw the rebel alliance logo on the back of a car.

      http://www.starwars.com/news/5…..s-universe

      And I’m not even in California.

      1. I think in California, you’re required to have an Empire logo.

  4. Before we get all angry, correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t this sort of lawsuit required as part of your trademark IP? Don’t you have to affirmatively defend your trademark? SLD, IP is bullshit, and even outside of Libertopia, given how much money these people are spending on Lucasfilm shit, it would probably be appropriate to do a cheap licensing deal and move on. Still, can’t quite feel bad for these guys. George Lucas was a suing sonofabitch before the Mouse acquired Lucasfilm. Its like pissing off Darth Vader and being surprised at getting choked.

    1. Is trademark bullshit? Any kind of trademark?

      1. Its a fair question. How do you build a brand if anyone can defraud a customer by claiming the brand. I’ll have to think about it.

        1. Of course, all IP rights are set to ’11’ right now, so keep that in mind.

          1. I just TM’d Pro Liberate. Give me some damn money!

            1. Sorry, I’ve already patented Latin. Prior art my ass.

        2. How do you build a brand if anyone can defraud a customer by claiming the brand.

          The key is in defrauding a customer. The courts have strayed away from what is really important… whether or not there is a “likelihood of confusion” by a reasonable consumer. Is the logo above confusing consumers or no? That should be the first barrier to winning the lawsuit.

          1. It could be confusing in that customers might believe the Acadamy is affiliated with LucasArts. Although the lawsuit is still a bit much. A disclaimer would do.

          2. I suspect these guys have plastered their studio with logo merchandise.

            If the IP weren’t relevant, why did they pick “light saber” instead of “laser sword”?

      2. I think some degree of trademark protection is probably reasonable to prevent fraud and deception. But should be limited to cases where consumers are actually likely to be deceived as to what they are buying.

        Though if, as Brett says, you have to defend your trademark or lose it, that could complicate things. But it shouldn’t be that hard to separate cases of fraud from homage.

        1. you have to defend your trademark or lose it

          This is true of any right you have. You can’t just sue somebody for denting your car 20 years later when you’re hard up for cash.

          1. Well, yeah. But in the case of trademarks, I think it’s more immediate. If you let someone slide on using your trademark, you lose the right to enforce it on others. I think that’s how it works.

            1. Think of a physical property analogy. If people have been cutting across your back pasture for 20 years, and you’ve never complained, then a stranger starts using it to make deliveries, and you suddenly want a cut, but all the locals can still use it, do you think a jury is going to rule in your favor, or the guy who is just following everyone else you don’t know across your land?

              1. ADVERSE POSSESSION, BITCHES! That’s how IP should be handled, too.

                1. Adverse possession was how IP essentially was handled, before things got out of hand. Trademarks had to be enforced (and still do) and copyrights had to be explicitly registered and renewed to count, and even then they had a much shorter lifespan than they do today (and a lifespan on a copyright is basically a generalized version of adverse possession, stating that after the public has utilized a work for a set period of time it becomes theirs, i.e. part of the public domain). I’m in favor of IP, but not of the creep that has set in and extended ownership for such extreme periods of time. If it were up to me a copyright would extend no more than 30 or 40 years (an average lifetime of employment) past the creation date, though trademarks could be extended indefinitely as long as they were periodically re-registered and enforced (although they could only extend to company and product names, not to the names of every character, item, and organization within a work of fiction).

  5. Do they really want to go after people who know how to use lightsabers and have mastered the old Jedi mind trick? They might use the mind trick on the judge and convince him to award damages to them instead. /sarc

  6. Incidentally, people are effing daft over Star Wars.

    1. It is indeed a very successful Fantasy franchise.

      1. Do you think you’re going to get a fight in these rooms over calling it Fantasy?

        1. No, I’m just accurately labelling it.

          1. Pretty sure it’s a space opera with space western elements.

            Besides, all fiction is fantasy, broadly speaking. That’s the point of fiction. High fantasy, which is what people usually refer to, is a more defined category and usually has dragons, elves, and possibly nasty hobbitses.

            What might qualify Star Wars as high fantasy? Light sabers = swords, “the force” = magic, and the Jedi are wizards? Weak qualifications, aren’t they?

            1. Thank you. I get annoyed when people attack fantasy for being unrealistic. Game of Thrones is more realistic than Gray’s Anatomy. Find me a hospital in real life with that many good looking (and white) doctors and I will find you a dragon.

              1. I think the distinction usually argued is that Star Wars is not Sci Fi. And I’d agree.

            2. Nerdly point of order. “Space opera” and “Space Western” are redundant in that “Space Opera” is derived from “Horse Opera,” melodramatic Westerns.

              And I generally think of Star Wars as “science fantasy.”

              Science fantasy is a mixed genre within the umbrella of speculative fiction which simultaneously draws upon and/or combines tropes and elements from both science fiction and fantasy. It also sometimes incorporates elements of horror fiction.

              Distinguishing between science fiction and fantasy, Rod Serling claimed that the former was “the improbable made possible” while the latter was “the impossible made probable”.[1] As a combination of the two, science fantasy gives a scientific veneer of realism to things that simply could not happen in the real world under any circumstances. Where science fiction does not permit the existence of fantasy or supernatural elements, science fantasy explicitly relies upon them.

              1. Y’know, it’s stuff like this that make me appreciate fellow pendants. People think I’m crazy when I make these kinds of distinctions, but they’re important. Anarchists aren’t communists, democracies aren’t republics, Sci-fi isn’t (high) fantasy, and it’s important to know why.

              2. Most SciFi is in fact science fantasy. For example, I would argue that anything with FTL is science fantasy, since we have no current scientific explanation for FTL.

                1. There’s a difference between “no current explanation” and “isn’t possible, ever.”

                  I understand where you’re coming from, but it’s still a valuable distinction. It may be a matter degrees (some fiction that stretches the boundaries of what’s possible may be in a grey fantasy/sci-fi zone), but Star Wars doesn’t even try to incorporate any practical science. Just because something is set in space does not make it sci-fi.

                  1. Yes, I agree it is a matter of degrees. And I agree that Star Wars is not SciFi. I am willing to accept as SciFi anything that offers a technological, rather than a supernatural, explanation for the fantastic elements in the story, as long as we agree that we are just playing semantics for the purposes of genre categorization and trope sifting.

                2. If you exclude some of Ted Sturgeon’s hard-up work, where the catch was something science-y, all sci-fi is fantasy. The difference between hard and soft is whether the author keeps all other things science and extrapolates what effect this one change (or set of changes) might have or if they basically abandon the laws of physics whenever it isn’t convenient for them, in which case you have magic, wherein the only limits are (1) the author’s imagination and (2) the importance of the character to the series.

                  1. I think you’re over-generalizing. There are plenty of works of sci-fi that fall into the “based on what we know now, this is possible” category.

                    Do you really see no distinction between the works of Arthur C. Clarke and Star Wars? (for example)

                3. That is why there is a sub genre of “hard sci fi” that seems to involve a lot of travel sub light speed, or at best some sort of worm hole device.

                  But honestly, without FTL, the distances make the stories largely impossible, unless the stories are about the effects of distance on interstellar trade, etc.

                  1. But honestly, without FTL, the distances make the stories largely impossible, unless the stories are about the effects of distance on interstellar trade, etc.

                    You just described A Deepness in the Sky.

                    Of course, the funny part is, it is a prequel to a novel that has FTL and explains why it works (and why it doesnt work in Deepness).

                4. I could accept a label like “science fantasy” with more or less emphasis on either influence in the output.

                  There have to be a few points glossed over in every science fiction story involving space. It’s not like the authors aren’t aware that space is vast and to write fiction about it we’re going to need faster than light travel and/or communications because relativity is a bitch. FTL isn’t exactly the best example of a “fantasy” technology, though, given the theoretical Einstein-Rosen Bridge. It’s a staple of sci-fi to use theoretical scientific concepts as if they were developed enough to base fictional technologies on. Do recall that spaceflight by rockets was already established in sci-fi before humans had managed to make real ones that could be controlled, have human pilots, and not have a huge risk of exploding before ever leaving the ground let alone get anywhere near leaving Earth.

                5. Niven and Pournelle have pages and pages of differential equations explaining FTL in the motie universe.

                  That qualifies as SciFi, IMO.

                6. There’s a difference between ‘no current scientific explanation’ and ‘works through the implications’. Science Fantasy has FTL because the author wants to take the story to different exotic locations and doesn’t want to limit himself to one solar system. Its also why all science fantasy has STL drives that violate Jon’s Law (Any interesting space drive is a weapon of mass destruction).

                  Science fiction incorporates the consequences of having and FTL drive (time travel and causality violations) into the world.

            3. Fantasy and SciFi were always mixed together in the old book stores.

              1. “Book stores”?

                1. “Bookstores? Sir, my first job was programming binary word processors?very similar to your bookstores in most respects.”

              2. My favorite one DIDNT mix them. Separate sections. They were a local, though. Eventually sold out to Borders, IIRC, and shortly thereafter went away.

            4. Star Wars is High Fantasy. HF doesn’t mean elves and dragons – it means the prevalence of magic.

              And everything in Star Wars runs on magic – even if the magic is cloaked in technobabble.

              Pretty much all science fiction is thinly disguised fantasy.

        2. This is a remarkably boring and unthinking culture, despite the quantity of material published. And I’m insulting the rest of the world, too.

          1. I loved SW as a kid. The prequels beat it out of me and JJ ran what was left over with a train.

            1. JJ has ruined everything he has touched. The man is a monster.

              1. Meh. I kinda like the reboots.

                Consider that the movies didn’t get worse, you just got older.

                1. I think that depends on what justification of “worse” we’re using.

                  Take “Star Trek Into Darkness” as an example of the Abrams legacy to a franchise people used to really like. As an action film, one might say it was pretty good, even great. The reason the fans call it “getting worse” as Abrams took over is because it has none of the soul of Star Trek anywhere to be found. What’s Star Trek without Roddenberry’s stilted politics directly influencing the output? Where’s the moralizing about some great historical atrocity played out yet again because humanity never learns (e.g. Star Trek: Insurrection drawing upon the Trail of Tears)? The technologies were all invented to enable “socialists in space.” The Ferengi were invented purely to mock capitalists. Yet, despite all that noise, you knew what you were getting from the brand. You can find actors to play all the parts memorably, but if you take iconic fictional figures and push the wrong words out of their mouths then you’re not really embracing the legacy the way that fans want or expect.

                2. Consider that the movies didn’t get worse, you just got older.

                  Most likely.

                3. They got worse. If nothing else, Lucas’ preoccupation with CGI ended up with him CGIing even shit that should have been done on a set – and he allowed that to ruin every bit of non-action in the movies.

                  Plinkett does a great breakdown of all the scenes where two people are just walking across the screen from left to right spouting exposition. Always two people, always from left to right.

                  Plus, Lucas made Raiders II even worse that it was.

                  1. Not that I didn’t also get older – and more jaded – and my long exposure to media and tropes of of all types didn’t allow me to view the prequels (and the Abrams one) with a much more critical eye.

                    Still, except for a few rough areas in 4-6, those first three still hold up pretty well and still deserve a place near the top of the list of all-time great Sci-fi movies.

            2. The reason these movies are ruined is because as thinking adults it’s impossible to not sense the cynicism that goes into making them.

              Hollywood doesn’t care if the movies they make are good, they care if they make money and will thus mass produce these franchise movies in a sterile, factory-like environment where no risks or original ideas are permitted.

              The Force Awakens, while technically impressive and competent from a story perspective, is a perfect example of a soulless film that was designed to exploit people’s nostalgia.

        3. I have pissed off a few people by referring to fantasy sports as an RPG.

          Which it is.

          And I participate. But I dont have a problem with RPGs.

  7. Can I sue George for wasting hours of my life with his shit prequels?

  8. The neckbeardiest of neckbeards. 95% of lightsaber academy members have meticulously organized Edguy album collections, and aruge vehemently over which is the best Edguy album.

  9. I hear the makers of Cool Hand Luke are suing Lucas for clearly ripping them off by using words.

    1. I bet Disney starts remaking a whole series of old westerns, set in the Star Wars universe. Not that Cool Hand Luke was a western.

    2. I hear that’s why they cut off Luke’s “cool hand” in Empire.

    3. “I’m so glad to see you. I’ve been sitting here listening to these men argue over the sweatiest movie ever made.”

      “Cool Hand Luke”

      1. I hope the other entry was Bridge Over the River Kwai

      2. I just started watching Cheers on Netflix a few weeks back. Compared to today’s sitcoms, it is a riot! I can’t put my finger on one difference that makes it so much better, but it’s a palpable difference.

          1. Do you want the cucumber bruised?

            1. Other than Norm’s “Milk Bone Underwear” comment, the Screaming Viking is the Cheers scene most ingrained in my noggin.

  10. I’m so, so sick of Star Wars. I wouldn’t care if I could ignore it but this shit is everywhere now. Just try running your weekend errands without finding something Star Wars branded in every store you go to.

    1. Odd, I haven’t seen anything star wars branded since…

      Well the icon on my desktop doesn’t count I bought that. I haven’t seen anything for sale in a while. Where exactly are you shopping?

      1. Mostly Target but in grocery stores and malls as well. Assuming Disney plans on following the Marvel model for movie releases that means at least two Star Wars branded movies each year and thus constant marketing.

        1. Well, that explains it. Target has been cutting a bunch of exclusive deals with Lucasfilm lately, so of course you’re going to have it shoved in your face there.

          If you’d like some relief, go to the toy section of Walmart.

    2. Even in comment sections people have handles evoking it, it’s disgusting.

    3. Are you sick of Grand Moff Tarkin, too?

      1. Fuck that guy.

      2. I’m too lazy to change my handle.

    4. Is that so? I manage to be completely ignorant of it somehow. I guess my wife does most of the kind of errand where you’d be likely to see that stuff. And I tend to stay focused on the objective when I go to a big box store.

  11. Brown’s attempt to register a trademark for “Lightsaber Academy,”

    That’s yer problem right there. I think this is why, Lucas Film, even since being acquired by Disney has been way more lenient than the parent company (who is known to go after places like day cares that paint Disney characters without paying).

    1. Yeah. The asshole tried to get the exclusive rights that would let him pull this sort of shit on other Star Wars fans, and the actual owner of Star Wars is now, quite properly, making him regret his attempted usurpation.

  12. Don’t fuck with the mouse.

  13. Good idea, step on the necks of a bunch of hyperfans.

    I can’t imagine that’ll get them spending their money on something else.

  14. Looks like it infringes. We against property now, for some reason?

    1. Intellectual property, as it is currently constructed and policed, is an abomination. This is perhaps not the best example of the problems with IP, however.

    2. Some of us don’t like IP. I’m fine with it, within reason.

      1. Its weird how you show up and the tone around here becomes far more polite and engaging. Come around more often.

        1. I’m old school Reason. You know, instead of comments, letters to the editor.

          1. And you’ve been absent for a lot of the Trump-mania election horror show, which hasn’t been good for morale or civil discourse.

            1. It’s weird. One day, I’m thinking Paul might win, or maybe Cruz–and Clinton would be indicted–then I wake up to, well, a very strange place indeed.

        2. He has the ear (and some other body parts) of the Urkobold. Offend ProLib at your own risk.

          1. Is Urkobold the leader of the kobolds? So what, he has two hit points?

            1. Oh, my sweet summer child.

            2. Such questions have resulted in the withering of greater taints than your own–take care.

              I always thought the Urkobold was universal and archetypal, hence the “ur.”

      2. Some of us don’t like IP. I’m fine with it, within reason.

        Yup, same here. As a soon-to-be IP lawyer, I had better be okay with it. I think the problems mainly occur where juries get caught up in the legal intricacies of the respective IP and ignore the basic question of whether something is actually being taken from the IP owner.

        1. One way I deal with it is to understand that, as a general matter, constitutional IP is inferior to the freedom of speech. That’s why we have fair use and other limits on IP.

    3. Whatever you think of IP it isn’t “property” unmodified.

    4. Re: Acomist,

      Looks like it infringes.

      Infringes on what? On whose rights?

      We against property now, for some reason?

      IP is NOT property.

  15. Soon as I saw it, I was reminded of a very similiar (Phoenix bird rising) logo used by Jarret Wollstein’s libertarian organization in the 1960s. They published “The Individualist” which carried Nolan’s first call to form the Libertarian Party. Can’t find a logo on the internet but many old head libertarians may remember it.

  16. I really don’t understand the hostility between some of these production companies and the fan fiction/cosplay crowd. I fully get wanting to protect your trademark and want not, but it seems to me that not only are these people paying homage to a brand they love (and therefore normally wouldn’t bring disrepute), they are providing free publicity that can help build and strengthen the brand name.

    1. Disney/Lucasfilm looked the other way when this Michael Brown was doing this, not just for fun, but for profit. But then this Michael Brown asshole applied for an exclusive trademark on “Lightsaber Academy”, something that would have allowed this Brown asshole to deny not just other fans, but Disney/Lucasfilm, the right to open their own “Lightsaber Academy”.

      When he did that, the response of Lucasfilm was to fuck this asshole. Which was entirely appropriate.

  17. Brown’s attempt to register a trademark for “Lightsaber Academy,”

    I think I see why he’s getting a lightsaber up the ass.

  18. That’s the Lucasfilm ‘Jedi Order’ logo?

    You’d think they’d remember that the whole phoenix wings thing was the motif of the *Rebel Alliance* and the ‘New Republic’ because they were rising out of the ashes of the old order.

    So it makes no fucking sense for the Jedi Order, *before* the destruction of the Republic, to use that motif.

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