Both sides claim Stormtrooper win

July 31, 2008 11:13:46 AM PDT
The Force was with - who?

Lucasfilm Ltd. and a British prop designer both claimed victory Thursday in a legal battle over the iconic Stormtrooper uniforms from the "Star Wars" films.

George Lucas's film company had sued Andrew Ainsworth, who sculpted the Stormtrooper helmets for the first "Star Wars" movie in 1977.

High Court judge Anthony Mann ruled that Ainsworth violated Lucasfilm's U.S. copyright by selling replica Stormtrooper uniforms through his Web site to customers in the United States.

But Mann refused to enforce in Britain a US$20 million judgment Lucasfilm won against Ainsworth in a California court in 2006. The judge said Ainsworth's U.S. sales, which totaled 25,000 to 30,000 pounds (US$50,000 to US$60,000), were not significant enough to make him susceptible to U.S. jurisdiction.

The judge also rejected a claim against Ainsworth under British law, saying English copyright over the outfits had expired. Ainsworth's lawyer, Seamus Andrew, said the ruling meant that Ainsworth was now free to sell his replicas everywhere except the United States.

However, in a win for Lucas' side, Mann also rejected a counter-claim by Ainsworth that copyright rested with him.

"We won," said Lucasfilm's lawyer, Mark Owen. "At the end of the day there is an order that Mr. Ainsworth infringed our copyright, and the next stage of the case will be discussing remedies for that."

The judge said a hearing would be held in the autumn to determine the next steps in the case - setting the stage for further battle over the molded white uniforms worn by warriors of the evil Galactic Empire.

Among the issues will be whether either side can challenge the judge's findings at the Court of Appeal.

At a hearing in April, Lucasfilm attorney Michael Bloch called the menacing Stormtrooper figure - a full-size model of which stood alongside the bewigged lawyers in the courtroom - "one of the most iconic images in modern culture."

Lucasfilm and its lawyers had claimed the design of the Stormtroopers was created by Lucas and his artistic team, and was already in place by the time Ainsworth was hired to create the helmets.

Ainsworth's counter-claim had sought a share of merchandising revenue from the six "Star Wars" films, which his lawyers estimated at 12 billion pounds (US$24 billion).

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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