In the midst of losing themselves in the thrill of fantastical combat, a company of Star Wars enthusiasts are facing a lawsuit over their lightsaber school from the very company that started the billion-dollar franchise.
Disney's Lucasfilm recently filed a suit in the United States District Court's Northern District of California, San Francisco Division, against Michael Brown, whose lightsaber school offers lightsaber instruction classes. The plaintiffs made the suit on grounds of unfair competition, trademark infringement, dilution and cybersquatting, among other allegations.
Pretending to use the Force
One of Brown's companies, New York Jedi, Lightsaber Academy, offers classes conducted by "experienced dancers, martial artists, and [costume players] that know a thing or two about saber choreography." The lightsaber school also provides private instruction and kids classes. You can see a video of one of the classes here.
Lucasfilm did not take issue with Brown's training methods. Instead, the suit alleged the defendants are committing copyright infringement by marketing their lightsaber school and classes, on the grounds that Lucasfilm's trademarked the words "Jedi" and "Lightsaber". From the plaintiff's perspective, New York Jedi has no right to use those terms in its marketing jargon.
Among the allegations, Lucasfilm noted Brown uses a logo quite similar to one of its own. The Jedi Order, a fictional organization of Jedi within the Star Wars franchise, has a distinct emblem which Brown emulated. While Brown's rendition has noticeable differences, the plaintiffs maintained the logo is "nearly identical, and confusingly similar, to Lucasfilm's trademark Jedi Order logo."
The Star Wars giant also named Thrills and Skills Inc and Lightsaber Academy, Inc, both of which are designations Brown, as defendants in the case. While Lightsaber Academy is a corporation filed in Delaware, Lucasfilm said the legal status of Thrills and Skills is unknown.
Not the first Lucasfilm suit
The company which produces Star Wars has filed numerous lawsuits on grounds of copyright and trademark infringement in the past. The Telegraph noted a couple of instances where LucasFilm filed legal action:
- In 2009, Verizon Wireless had to pay Lucasfilm an undisclosed settlement to continue using the name "DROID" when marketing a line of smartphones.
- Mind Technologies was originally named "Jedi Mind," but Lucasfilm delivered a cease-and-desist letter, asking the company to stop using the word "Jedi" in its branding.
Bearing in mind Star Wars' popularity, it's likely future lawsuits will occur, given that some companies may not even be aware they're infringing on Lucasfilm's right to use its trademarks.