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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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  • And... (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @10:32AM (#32826016)

    Dildos look too much like MY penis. Can I sue their makers?

  • by boristdog (133725) on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @10:34AM (#32826038)

    But now I remember and want to go to the Wicked Laser web site and buy stuff.

    Thanks for reminding me, George! Say hi to Babs Streisand when you see her!

  • heh (Score:5, Funny)

    by Pojut (1027544) on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @10:36AM (#32826066) Homepage

    Anyone else notice how Lucas tends to just shit all over anything remotely reminiscent of Star Wars? My fiancee is convinced it's because Star Wars prevented him from having any other successful films for the rest of this life, and he resents the series because of that.

    My response is that I don't know how you can resent something that makes you a gajilionaire, but whatever.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      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.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Pojut (1027544)

        It's kinda conspiracy-theorish, but I actually wouldn't put that out of the realm of possibility. What better middle finger could Lucas come up with than delivering crap that people would still pay en masse to see?

        • Re:heh (Score:4, Interesting)

          by Monkeedude1212 (1560403) on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @10:56AM (#32826410) Journal

          I think he was actually going with the McDonald's route, and trying to market Star Wars to Kids. I mean a 9 year old protagonist hero. Then a cheesy no-lust love story?

          Notice there were a few more video games targetted towards kids and more products aimed at kids than before... I think the idea was to get these kids to be SW geeks for life, more money if you get em young.

    • Re:heh (Score:5, Funny)

      by localman57 (1340533) on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @10:39AM (#32826102)

      My response is that I don't know how you can resent something that makes you a gajilionaire, but whatever.

      Obviously, you've never gotten a huge settlement check for having your man-parts torn off in a freak industrial accident.

      • Re:heh (Score:5, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @10:59AM (#32826446)

        Obviously, you've never gotten a huge settlement check for having your man-parts torn off in a freak industrial accident.

        The prequels weren't *that* bad, were they?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by somersault (912633)

      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.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Enderandrew (866215)

        Willow?
        American Graffiti?
        THX-1138?

        And oddly enough people really hated Temple of Doom until Last Crusade came out. Then people hated it for not living up to the first two films. Now people hate Indy IV.

        I love Indy, but all 4 are cheesy, unrealistic, and most lack a traditional Hollywood ending where Indy saves the day. Indy gets captured by bad guys who basically get what they want in 1, 3 and 4.

        That being said, Lucas is good with concepts, pretty good with directing, and terrible at acting writing scripts.

        • Re:heh (Score:4, Informative)

          by Pojut (1027544) on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @11:02AM (#32826498) Homepage

          Willow?
          American Graffiti?
          THX-1138?

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

          American Graffiti and THX-1138, though both amazingly awesome, were released prior to Star Wars.

          • Lucas at his best (Score:3, Insightful)

            by DesScorp (410532)

            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

        • Re:heh (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Sir_Lewk (967686) <sirlewk@gmai l . 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:heh (Score:4, Interesting)

      by RyuuzakiTetsuya (195424) <taiki@cWELTYox.net minus author> on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @10:41AM (#32826150)

      Most of the time anyone's pitching something "light saber" like in their marketing materials, serious fucking laser burns aren't a problem. Blunt force trauma, maybe, but not laser burns.

      I can see why Lucas is trying to get the association away from his name.

      • 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:heh (Score:4, Informative)

        by BryanL (93656) <(lowtherbf) (at) (gmail.com)> on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @12:01PM (#32827414)

        The company doesn't pitch it as a "light saber". Reviews of the product compare it to a light saber, but it is not marketed by the company as one. Lucas is complaining because the laser has a hilt like a sword or a light light saber. His argument is fairly weak IMO.

    • Is that why he made all the later SW movies so terrible?

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Enderandrew (866215)

        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: (Score:3, Funny)

          by kimvette (919543)

          He lost me at "what are midichlorians"

    • by Sloppy (14984)

      Star Wars prevented him from having any other successful films for the rest of this life

      Yeah, it's a shame that Raiders of the Lost Ark languished in so much obscurity and financial mediocrity.

  • 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.
    • by Pojut (1027544)

      "The shrink ray doesn't shoot pools, Shake! It's not a toy!"

      "You say that about everything you own...maybe you should just buy toys."

    • 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.

  • This is the look & feel suit in meat-space this time. Those never go anywhere.

  • 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.

  • by mujadaddy (1238164) on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @10:40AM (#32826132)
    ...they're the ones with the functioning lasers!
  • 0.5W ?! Call me when they sell a real laser.
  • by Caviller (1420685) on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @10:42AM (#32826158)
    I can see it now....

    Scientist: We developed Hyperdrive!!
    George: Nope...I did...didn't you see my movie...geesh.

    I think George is heading down the path of the Dark Side....
    • In fact, the entire future of humanity, including all technological advances, was already patented by scifi writers decades ago.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      I can see it now.... Scientist: We developed Hyperdrive!! George: Nope...I did...didn't you see my movie...geesh. I think George is heading down the path of the Dark Side....

      Um excuse me! I represent the Roddenberry estate and it's obvious that it is "Warp" drive NOT hyper drive. See you in court!

  • IANAL, but I doubt Wicked Lasers is very worried.

    Movies get copyright protection, or trademark protection.

    Hardware gets patent protection.

    If George Lucas has a (design) patent on the light saber, it's expired by now.

  • 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.
    • by bigdavex (155746)

      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.

      I'm sure you're right, but when a person hires people to represent him, then they represent him. I.e., if this isn't what he wants done then George Lucas sucks at employing people.

  • 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...

    • by e2d2 (115622)

      This is not good. The Philip K Dick estate is going to own half the known world.

    • Don't be stupid (Score:3, Informative)

      by geekoid (135745)

      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.

      Functioning has nothing to do with it.

  • Probably unimportant (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Sarten-X (1102295) on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @10:45AM (#32826238) Homepage
    I'm agreeing with the Wicked Lasers CEO:

    "They're a big company that needs to protect their trademarks. Maybe they're having to look like they're protecting their trademark in case they need to [protect it again] later."

    It's just a laser for now, but next month when Lucasfilm sues a company making unlicensed life-size R2D2 statues, their lawyers can claim they've been actively protecting their copyrights and trademarks, which easily cuts off the biggest defenses. It's all part of the game.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @10:45AM (#32826242)

    While I think this is heavy handed of Lucasfilm Ltd, I looked up the actual product on their website. The pic in TFA is rather close up and doesn't truly show how close this laser resembles a lightsaber. Check out the other pics here: http://www.wickedlasers.com/lasers/Spyder_III_Pro_Arctic_Series-96-37.html

    As much as I hate to admit it, it does look way too similar to a lightsaber.

  • Lucas F*&^ OFF ! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by maxrate (886773) on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @10:51AM (#32826324)
    That's like Paramount tell apple to stop making the iPad because it looks like the PADD's on the Star Trek series
  • by Robotron23 (832528) on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @10:51AM (#32826338) Homepage

    Isn't it nice to see Lucas as lawsuit-happy as ever some 33 years after the launch of his massively successful franchise? The amounts of legal disputes, some so petty as to beggar belief, that George Lucas has launched over the decades illustrate more about the man himself than about any significant precedent or legal milestone. Yes he's won lawsuits; but there's a difference between legally sound and ethically sound.

    Great White Snark [greatwhitesnark.com] has a short list of five of Lucas's most silly qualms which in the final analysis basically attack inspiration itself. Despite the fact there's a still-debated laundry list of inspiration for Star Wars, much of which he's acknowledged in straight-faced affable fashion in interviews over the years.

    I'd have thought by now he'd started to mellow with age, or perhaps devoted more time to helping the world in general like certain other elder-geeks on the globe. Apparently not.

  • I guess he didn't patent it, probably becuase he didn't have the slightest idea how it could work.
    (I am refering to the feature that lets you swordfight with them, and also block incoming laser blasts.

    Anyway the most he can claim ownership to is the name.

    Say did he ever sue Ronald Reagan over the Star Wars strategic defense initiative?

  • Seems like George set himself up into a Minority Report catch-22... if this laser CAN cut him in half, then he dies but wins his point that this laser infringes on his copyright. If it cannot cut him, then he lives but loses his point.
  • 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.
  • for not being a douche when Motorola released the StarTAC [wikipedia.org].
  • 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.
  • by Pollux (102520) <speter@tedatMOSCOWa.net.eg minus city> on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @11:05AM (#32826550) Journal

    Scientists ceased work on developing a time machine that fits inside a car.

    "When we first started development, we had our eyes set on a Camaro," said project manager and lead scientist Phuc Mi. "There aren't too many modern cars that still have enough space both under the hood to fit the fusion reactor necessary to generate the 2.19 GW of power needed to feed the fluidic transistor needed to initiate time travel. But, Michael Bay got wind of our project and, well, let's just say we gutted the Camaro and borrowed someone's Mustang instead. But with this second cease-and-desist letter from Steven Spielberg, we can't keep fighting lawyers! We have much better odds predicting where lightning will strike next than beating them in court!"

  • by Glock27 (446276) on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @11:10AM (#32826628)

    Do Not Look Into Laser with Remaining Eye!

    (My favorite lab warning sign of all time...)

  • Please?

    I wont to see the idiot who clearly didn't read the article moderated to hell.

    They run around projecting the narcissistic doom and gloom via wild speculation based on a poor interpretation of a headline.

    I am not new here by any stretch of the imagination. I have been here long enough to get sick of it, come to terms with it, and then get really sick of it again.ad nausium

    FYI: IT's abouit the look of the handle,. not about it being a laser.

    "high-powered product he says looks too much like the famous lightsaber from his classic sci-fi series"

    AND

    "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.

    It's a CNN article people. It's not going to be hard to read.

  • 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).

  • by tekrat (242117) on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @11:26AM (#32826878) Homepage Journal

    If Lucas is claiming the "lightsaber handle" is *his* intellectual property, he's on very shakey ground as the prop in the ORIGINAL STAR WARS was a Graflex handle, a fairly off-the-shelf item in the moviemaking biz.

    Similarly the prop control panel for the Death Star's main weapon was a Grass-Valley video switcher. These are not Lucas's intellectual property. They are common items that were used in the movie because the guy was strapped on the budget.

    Is Lucas going to sue anyone making a 3-wheeled two-seater with no top, even though *they* used the chassis from a Reliant Robin for the landspeeder? And what about blasters? The guns used in the movie were slightly re-dressed real weapons, he really doesn't have much copyright on existing designs that were around long before the film.

  • by sgt scrub (869860) <saintium@ y a hoo.com> on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @11:28AM (#32826904)

    What if someone build a real light saber? Would the IP of a non existing object restrict someone from selling a real one?

  • Related news (Score:3, Informative)

    by Quiet_Desperation (858215) on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @11:28AM (#32826920)
    In a related story, the copyright holders of the Akira Kurosawa film "Hidden Fortress" have demanded that LucasArts cease all sales of "Star Wars".
  • 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.

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