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Star Wars Prequels The Courts Toys

George Lucas C&Ds 'Lightsaber Laser' 481

Posted by timothy
from the illegal-operation dept.
dward90 writes "George Lucas thinks that bulky, handheld lasers shouldn't be produced because they are his intellectual property. From CNN: 'George Lucas wants to force a laser company to stop making a new, high-powered product he says looks too much like the famous lightsaber from his classic sci-fi series. Lucasfilm Ltd. has sent a cease-and-desist letter to Hong Kong-based Wicked Lasers, threatening legal action if it doesn't change its Pro Arctic Laser series or stop selling it altogether.'"
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George Lucas C&Ds 'Lightsaber Laser'

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  • age (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Threni (635302) on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @10:32AM (#32826018)

    Surely those things are like 50 years old now. Feels like it. Don't tell me - the problem is that Lucas is still alive.

  • Me too. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by JohnG (93975) on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @10:37AM (#32826076)
    I don't care about the legal implications of what the laser looks like, but I think it would be a lot cooler to have if it didn't look like a toy. I don't want someone getting a hold of it and thinking it is a light saber and shooting me with it. Dangerous tools should never be made to resemble toys, regardless of who owns the trademarks on the toys.
  • Re:heh (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Conspiracy_Of_Doves (236787) on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @10:38AM (#32826088)

    Wait... do you think that it's possible that he borked the prequels on purpose?

    He would have been a gajilionaire off of Indiana Jones, anyway.

  • OMFG (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Junior J. Junior III (192702) on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @10:39AM (#32826104) Homepage

    I hope Lucas also got a patent on a process for establishing "prior art" through the use of a non-functional prop, imagination, and delusions of grandeur.

  • Re:heh (Score:3, Insightful)

    by somersault (912633) on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @10:41AM (#32826144) Homepage Journal

    Indiana Jones was great (the first 3 anyway). If he'd made anything else decent then it would be recognised as such. Plenty of other writers/directors have made more than just one successful movie/series.

  • Legal Department (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Itninja (937614) on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @10:44AM (#32826216) Homepage
    I seriously doubt 'George Lucas' had anything to do with this. It's possible he's not even aware of it. This was done by the Lucasfilm Ltd legal department. George doesn't exactly engage in day-to-day operations....he has 'people' for that.
  • Wow... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Richard Steiner (1585) <rsteiner@visi.com> on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @10:44AM (#32826218) Homepage Journal

    If he succeeds, then REAL scifi authors could have a field day. No more helicopters, hovercraft, or zillions of other inventions they wrote about without getting their permission first...

  • Re:age (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Monkeedude1212 (1560403) on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @10:47AM (#32826266) Journal

    the problem is that Lucas is still alive.

    He was much better when he just wanted to share some amazing stories floating in his head, like the original SW trilogy and IJ. Ever since it's been downhill, with a slightly worse prequel trilogy, then selling it all out to have an animated TV series, a handful of recent video game flops, and everything else that seems to be detrimental to the Star Wars fantasy universe.

    And don't forget the holiday special. shivers

    Yeah, George has long since seemed to be more in it for the money, like he is trying to build this vast empire to rival Microsoft. You might even say his entertainment companies, Lucasfilm, Industrial light and magic, skywalker sound, and then hsi co-founding with THX makes it seem like he's monopolized that field. (What's the last action flick you saw that didn't have the little THX promo before the show).

    Seriously Lucas, you've built your empire, and it's doing absolutely great without you trying to "defend" it. Just quietly retire and let the other men try and run the company. I've noticed Lucasarts is revamping the Monkey Island series, and I have a feeling this was not your idea. It's not as huge a success as you probably wish, but its not doing too bad. Remember, the reason these people were even inspired to make lightsabers because of your films, no one is going to forget that.

  • Re:OMFG (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Sarten-X (1102295) on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @10:49AM (#32826300) Homepage
    Copyright has nothing to do with prior art. Patents and copyrights are different.
  • Short memory? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by damn_registrars (1103043) <damn.registrars@gmail.com> on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @10:54AM (#32826382) Homepage Journal
    It wasn't that long ago that the lasers from this very same company were featured on the slashdot front page. While the company doesn't make any Star Wars references themselves, the slashdot write-up certainly did.

    Here's the Slashdot article "Set Free Your Inner Jedi (Or Pyro)" [slashdot.org]. It was posted June 14 - less than a month ago today. I'm surprised the intrepid Slashdot editors didn't remember running it while writing up this summary.
  • It used to be... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Darkness404 (1287218) on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @10:57AM (#32826426)
    It used to be that Science Fiction authors and movie makers used to -like- the fact that their predictions came true because it showed that they made good predictions... Imagine how much H.G. Wells would be thrilled if someone made a working time machine based on his book, something tells me that he wouldn't send a C&D letter because they "stole" his idea, instead he'd be happy that he could be the inspiration for such a great idea.
  • Re:heh (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Enderandrew (866215) <enderandrew@gmaUMLAUTil.com minus punct> on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @11:00AM (#32826468) Homepage Journal

    He is a terrible writer and made the prequels on his own, and not inside of a studio. Not a soul could question him to revise or improve upon what he was doing.

    And while 1 was awful, 2 really wasn't terrible, and I'd contend that 3 is actually on par with A New Hope and Return of the Jedi.

  • Re:Me too. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by MBGMorden (803437) on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @11:01AM (#32826482)

    It doesn't really look like a toy IMHO. It just looks "sleek". A ton of money, even in tool, is spent into making items look futuristic and appealing. When I bought my truck for example I bought it primarily as a tow vehicle for my fishing boat, but I still bought an upgraded appearance package on it because despite it being bought for utility purposes, I still wanted it to look nice too.

    Same with tons of things. Just because it has a snazzy appearance doesn't mean it looks like a toy. I'd wager the ONLY reason you say that is that you're making the same mistake Lucas is - if it's a small laser that is remotely attractive looking then it just has to be copying a lightsaber so the only thing it's good for is to swing it around and making buzzing noises.

  • by poetmatt (793785) on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @11:03AM (#32826510) Journal

    it's more like lawyers realize they can sound busy and make extra money by thinking that you have to sue anything remotely similar.

  • Re:heh (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Sir_Lewk (967686) <sirlewk@nospaM.gmail.com> on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @11:08AM (#32826598)

    love Indy, but all 4 are cheesy, unrealistic, and most lack a traditional Hollywood ending where Indy saves the day.

    Wait, I'm confused. Is that supposed to be criticism or praise?

  • Re:And... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ElectricTurtle (1171201) on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @11:15AM (#32826712)
    Because he said ... *gasp!* penis! Such base, immoral language should not be allowed in a public forum! Soon people might throw around other medical terms like 'testicles' and 'mammaries' or even ... dare I say it ... 'vagina'! It's a slippery slope that leads to people eating babies.
  • by wisnoskij (1206448) on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @11:16AM (#32826728) Homepage

    It seem pretty obvious to me that we cannot allow art copyright apply to scientific discoveries.
    No one is going to buy one simply because the handle looks similar (and it is a laser). And it is a handle, it is no wonder that it is similar looking to other handles.
    Quite a lot of possible future technology has been dreamed up by fiction writers.
    For example Star Trek could sue cell phone makers (the first ones even admit to being inspired by Star Trek).

  • Re:heh (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @11:16AM (#32826738)

    I'd contend that 3 is actually on par with A New Hope and Return of the Jedi.

    I have only one* word for you:

    "N(OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO)x10***"**

    *3
    **"DO NOT WANT!"
    ***This filter is being all fascist and denying my quote.

  • Re:OMFG (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Junior J. Junior III (192702) on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @11:22AM (#32826808) Homepage

    Shouldn't every flashlight company in the world be able to sue for a share of Star Wars royalties, then? A light saber looks basically like a fancy flashlight.

  • Re:heh (Score:5, Insightful)

    by schon (31600) on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @11:24AM (#32826852)

    Most of the time anyone's pitching something "light saber" like in their marketing materials [...] I can see why Lucas is trying to get the association away from his name.

    Maybe if Wicked had actually done that, you might have a point. But seeing as they don't make any mention of Star Wars, Lucas, Lightsabers, or anything even remotely connected to them in any way, this is just Lucas being a dick.

  • Re:age (Score:3, Insightful)

    by NewbieProgrammerMan (558327) on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @11:26AM (#32826874)

    He was much better when he just wanted to share some amazing stories floating in his head...

    Just based on things I've seen and read here and there, he was "much better" back then because he was confined by limited resources, and by people around him that would actually say, "No, George, just....no."

  • Re:waita minute (Score:5, Insightful)

    by lgw (121541) on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @11:33AM (#32826996) Journal

    When I was ten, I read fairy stories in secret and would have been ashamed if I had been found doing so. Now that I am fifty I read them openly. When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.

    -C. S. Lewis

  • Re:heh (Score:2, Insightful)

    by easterberry (1826250) on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @11:37AM (#32827044)
    and yet, despite that, is still the greatest movie ever made.
  • by ByteSlicer (735276) on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @11:38AM (#32827056)
    Just generally looking like a light saber isn't enough to invoke copyright. For a patent or trademark claim that might be enough, but TFA specifically mentioned copyright.
    For copyright to apply, it would have to look strikingly similar to a specific lightsaber design published by Lucas. If it does (I don't know), then Lucas is in his right.
  • Oxymoron Alert! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by amiga3D (567632) on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @11:51AM (#32827252)
    you used the term "good lawyer" that's like saying "honest politician" or "military intelligence." You shouldn't use phrases with words that directly contradict themselves.
  • Re:Wow... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by silentcoder (1241496) on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @11:54AM (#32827302) Homepage

    >These lightsabers are toys. Not real inventions.

    No they bloody well aren't. The article clearly states that these are fully functional portable laser devices - intended primarily for industrial and military use.
    In fact the amount of people buying them for non-industrial use has led the company to modify them and ship them with significant extra safety features to prevent accidents from people buying them as novelties.

    >The concept of this non-functioning object is taken from the movie....

    No, it is not. The movie has a device in it which violates the current laws of physics. Light that only travels a short distance then stops, cuts through metal but cannot move through OTHER light of the same kind...
    While THIS device is cutting laser, much like the ones used for surgery or industrial machining. The difference is only that this device is portable.

    >Helicopters, communication devices, and other thought of ideas became inventions that could not really be disputed. It's because >those inventions were a concept the -author could not make- into reality

    As pointed out above, the concept of a lightsaber cannot be made into reality - it violates every known law of physics so short of a radical new discovery or something "like light" which ISN'T - it's NEVER going to exist. Therefore no functional real world device can possibly be said to be based on it.

    >I'm pretty sure george lucas could have financed and made the same/similar toys if he felt like it.

    He does. This is not a toy.

    >Now I'm not saying that i agree with this action. Consider it like this: you have to pay the owner of the "Gundam" name in order >to call a humanoid robot machine a "Gundam" the same probably is going to be argued with these lightsaber toys.

    That's trademark law - and it doesn't exist to protect companies (another reason "ip" is a bad term) it exists to protect consumers - so that when I by a defy fridge I can be reasonably sure it's not a cheap knock-off but the real thing I'm paying a premium for.

    >As stated in the article, the company has made similar devices before. Only this time it was intended to look like a lightsaber.

    How the hell did you manage to READ the article yet miss all the other actual FACTS in it ? Like that the device is not a toy, was not itended to "look like a lightsaber", and was never intended to be sold to the general public - so much so in fact that when hte public started to buy them they had to ALTER the design to make it safe ?

  • Re:Wow... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by silentcoder (1241496) on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @12:01PM (#32827394) Homepage

    >>If he succeeds, then REAL scifi authors could have a field day. No more helicopters, hovercraft, or zillions of other inventions they wrote about without getting their permission first...

    >Wicked Lasers designed their laser to look like a lightsaber.
    They say they didn't - so I guess until a judge says whose right it's just your word against theirs.

    >Lucas owns the trademark on the lightsaber name and look.
    So ? Trademark law only applies within similar field. This is not a movie prop, it's not a toy and it's not even a sword-like weapon. It's an industrial cutting laser. That is a radically different market. What's next, will you suggest the manufacturers of Linux Brand Tile Soap (yes it exists, and there are about a dosen other products with the name) get to sue Linus Torvalds ?

    >Lucas sues to protect his trademark.
    Trademark law doesn't apply - and the letter never mentions it anyway, it clearly states that it's a copyright letter. Until they prove that a real utility device can violate the copyright of a fictional device with a completely different purpose - their letter is just a threaten-them-and-hope-they-back-down.

    >This will somehow lead to the downfall of civilization as "REAL scifi authors" attempt to enforce trademarks they do not have.
    Your +4 Insightful shames us all.

    Well it certainly appears that this is how George Lucas thinks it should work, don't fault the GP for pointing this out.

  • by Animats (122034) on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @12:14PM (#32827570) Homepage

    That's a big stretch for copyright.

    Copyright doesn't cover functional parts of objects. A D-battery sized cylinder with a light source at one end predates anything Lucas has done. The exterior detail doesn't match any Lucas product. Lucas doesn't have a design patent, and if he did, it would have expired years ago. Lucas would lose this in court.

    The Wicked Lasers device is probably just a prototype, though. They admit they're getting those Nichia NDB7352 1 watt laser diodes by disassembling video projectors. If the product was in production, they'd be buying them in bulk from Nichia.

  • Re:heh (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Xupa (1313669) on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @12:20PM (#32827674)
    That's EXACTLY what Stephen King did with "The Dark Tower." Humiliated every beloved character, one by one, set it in a world that bore ZERO resemblance to Mid-World, stuck his own dumb ass in it and wrote a note saying "Sorry it sucks, that's what you get for hassling me about it. Don't call. Love, Steve."
  • Dunno, actually... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Moraelin (679338) on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @01:05PM (#32828318) Journal

    Dunno if I'd even give him credit for basically inventing the lightsaber, though. It's been one of those ideas that has floated around for at least one millennium, in one form or another.

    E.g., King Arthur's sword Excalibur is said in various legends to be so bright that you can't (or can only with difficulty) look at it, and in at least one it consists or is covered in two jets of bright flame coming from the two chimaera heads on the hilt. It also can slice right through steel.

    Other flaming swords or swords made of flame date as far back as Genesis (God placed one at the entrance to Eden after kicking those two buggers out), or one that shines like the sun is supposed to be wielded by Surtr (leader of the Muspelheim fire giants) in the battle of Ragnarok in Norse mythology. In fact Surtr's sword is arguably even more interesting as it isn't described as flaming or made of fire, but as a sword which shines brighter as the sun.

    And while not exactly contemporary with the old Norse, there are paintings from _long_ before Lucas which represent Surtr wielding basically a lightsaber. E.g., "The Giant with the Flaming Sword" by John Charles Dollman from 1909.

    Or there's the sword Tyrfing, again norse, forged by the dwarves to shine like the sun and cleave through steel or stone like through cloth. (The only catch was that it _had_ to kill someone each time it was drawn, if all else fails, even its wielder.)

    And while not necessarily flaming, great heroes carrying awesome swords with supernatural abilities in battle is basically as old as we have a history. The Celts have the likes of Caladbolg which cleaves hills and leaves a rainbow arc when swung (weapon swing arc effects in computer games, anyown?;)), Caesar had the Crocea Mors, etc.

    Really, I liked the original trilogy and all, and I'm not trying to minimize Lucas's role on the whole. But crediting lightsabers as his invention, is a bit like crediting Disney with inventing mermaids ;)

  • by rarrar (671411) on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @01:21PM (#32828492)
    This is purely a CYA move on the part of his legal dept. If some kid "burns his eye out" playing with a "lightsaber," and the lawsuits start a-flying - LucasFilm has set precedent by warning the manufacturer of the danger, and by disavowing any affiliation with them.
  • by Benfea (1365845) on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @01:44PM (#32828726)

    After Lucas' infamous hissy fit with the DVD standards committee, he refused to release any of his movies on DVD for a very long time. I got pretty angry at him for that, but I found that there were plenty of other movies out there deserving of my attention. So I went years without watching the Star Wars movies. It turns out that watching those movies regularly altered my perception of those movies. By not watching them for years, the spell lifted and when I finally came back, I was able to (finally) give a more fair evaluation of the original trilogy, and I have to say it didn't age well. At all. Now when I look at it, all I can see is the amazingly bad dialog, occasionally atrocious acting (who puts a hack like Mark Hamil in the same scene with the great Alec Guinness?), and of course plot holes you could drive an imperial star destroyer through.

    Lucas has always been a talentless hack. There was never a better time when he made better movies.

    Anyway, back to the topic at hand, the laser in question really does resemble the light saber. As much as it pains me to side with Lucas, it seems more than within his rights to argue copyright infringement.

  • by Chris Burke (6130) on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @02:37PM (#32829384) Homepage

    Lucas' borrowing was still better than Quentin Tarantino's, though. At least it wasn't immediately transparent, where with Tarantino's films I generally just play "where did he copy this from" during the whole movie, then go rent the actual original films instead of paying a bit of attention to his.

    Lemme guess, and then you got to Kill Bill and wondered where he copied Uma's yellow motorcycle suit from, and went to watch Game of Death allegedly starring Bruce Lee and realized you'd taken an unexpected and dramatic dive down the quality scale. "Did George Lucas direct this?!" you wondered. "How could anyone disgrace Bruce's memory like this!"

    Or maybe that was just me. :)

  • Re:Don't be stupid (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @02:55PM (#32829654)

    this has NOTHING to do with it being a laser. He claims the shape of the body was built to resemble a light saber handle.

    A headline from tech blog Gizmodo called the device "a real life lightsaber." The Daily Tech blog called it "perhaps the first consumer laser weapon" and said it "comes in sleek packaging that looks, unsurprisingly like a lightsaber."

    "These references make it clear that the public is being led to believe that the Pro Arctic Laser is an official lightsaber device and/or copied from our design," the Lucasfilm letter said.

    He is quoted as saying he's upset at the fact other people are misrepresenting Wicked Lasers product. Not that it is actually representative of anything. His only issues seem to be with the fact people are lead to believe Wicked Lasers product is official, and even admits it is the other blogs doing.

    It would be like me posting that you have blue skin, and the blue man group suing YOU for what I said.

  • Re:heh (Score:4, Insightful)

    by DMadCat (643046) <dmadcat AT moondans DOT com> on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @03:09PM (#32829830)
    A reasonable person maybe.

    1. That was episode VI (6), not episode (IV) and her memory of her mother was described as "Images really. Feelings." Which (with little imagination and some empathy) could be attributed to a little girl's idealization of a mother she never knew blurred over time.

    2. When in the series did anyone ever explain that Vader wore a suit because he was 'battle-scarred'? When did you see any jedi save possibly yoda actually levitate or indeed ever use the force to move against inertia? I don't think I need to mention how stupid the lava comment was.

    3. The one thing we're told again and again about the force is that you can't just jump sides whenever you please. Once you turn to the dark side, you can't just go back (especially when, to get there, you murdered a bunch of children). He gave hints that he was dissatisfied with how the Senate was running things and intimated that he could do better. The second and third movies were all about his dissatisfaction with the Jedi order and his yearning to use his considerable power to force people to conform to his world view, held back only by his jedi training, but fostered by the soon to be emperor. Aside from all that, it was Obi Wan (who wasn't actually there when he turned) who told Luke he was seduced by the Dark Side which just makes that line hearsay.

    I'm sure you have more and I'm sure they're just as well thought out and shallow as these. There is criticism that can be leveraged against the Star Wars saga as written by Lucas but frankly, you can do that to any movie or set of movies in hindsight.
  • by a_nonamiss (743253) on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @03:23PM (#32830110)
    You realize that this [wordpress.com] is not a real Norse myth, right? Right?
  • Lucas at his best (Score:3, Insightful)

    by DesScorp (410532) <DesScorp@[ ]il.com ['Gma' in gap]> on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @04:09PM (#32830780) Homepage Journal

    Willow was directed by Ron Howard, not Lucas. Granted, he was a producer, but it still wasn't totally "his baby".

    Lucas is at his best when he's NOT behind the camera calling all the shots. Raiders of the Lost Ark is probably testament Numero Uno to this. And while Empire and Return were great movies, I think we have to recognize that part of the reason that Star Wars was such a phenomenon is that it came along at exactly the right time and gave the country exactly what it needed... an old fashioned fairy tale of good guys vs. bad guys in the gray, dreary post-Vietnam world.

    Had Star Wars been released in any other time, it probably wouldn't have become the legend that it did. Had Star Wars been released in 1955 or 1995 (with appropriate levels of special effects for the period), it probably would have been as awkward as releasing Easy Rider in 1985. So to some extent, Lucas has probably profited from a good deal of lucky timing. Is he talented? Clearly. Is he the wunderkind that everyone thought in 1977? I think the test of time says "No".

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