When I mention “George Lucas” and “ridiculous” in the same sentence, your thoughts likely turn to The Phantom Menace, Jar Jar Binks, or a warehouse chock-full of of plaid shirts.
But Lucasfilm’s antics also extend to the legal realm. Inspired by last week’s news of a lawsuit brought against Star Wars prop designer Andrew Ainsworth for selling supposedly-unlicensed Stormtrooper costumes, I uncovered five of my favorite ridiculous lawsuits involving Lucasfilm.
5) Trademark dispute with Digg.com
Ok, I can get behind Lucasfilm protecting itself against blatant rip-off artists, but… getting into a trademark dispute with social news Web site Digg over a computer game released in 1995 called “The Dig“?
Calling that a bit of a stretch would be like saying Paula Abdul probably doesn’t quite have the biggest brain in the world.
(Lucas dropped its “notice of opposition” after an out-of-court settlement.)
4) Lawsuit over X-rated anime movie Starballz
Starballz is a pornographic cartoon movie that parodies films including The Full Monty, Die Hard, The Matrix, The Silence of the Lambs and Titanic. Think of it as the Scary Movie of the cartoon porn world. (I know… quite a distinction.)
As indicated in the lawsuit, Lucasfilm thought that consumers could be confused into thinking that Lucasfilm sponsored or produced the X-rated film. Right. Heh.
The producers of Starballz thought that was pretty funny, too. They filed a $140 million countersuit.
3) Copyright lawsuit against copyright crusader Dr. Dre
Dr. Dre made quite a stink over mother-effin’ Napter users stealing his mother-effin’ music. Bitch.
Oh, delicious irony when Lucasfilm sued the good doctor for copyright infringement of their THX “Deep Note” in one of his songs. It’s almost like MSNBC suing Ann Coulter for being too damn liberal.
2) Lawsuit over President Reagan’s “Star Wars” Strategic Defense Initiative
“Hey, Government? It’s me, George Lucas. Yeah, with the beard. Anyway. I’m calling to let you know I’m filing a lawsuit against you for, um… let’s call it a bazzillion dollars.”
Ok, he didn’t actually sue the goverment. He sued two ad agencies running political TV ads referring to the “Star Wars” program. A judge decided against him, ruling “that ‘Star Wars’ had entered the public lexicon and could be used for social criticism.”
Which means that when I launch my political career, I’ll be well within my rights to create campaign materials stating that my opponent “has a track record way more stupid than that fourth Star Wars movie. Totally.”
1) Star Wars blatantly rips off Universal’s Silent Running. Universal’s Battlestar Galactica overtly steals from Star Wars. No one acknowledges that every sci-fi movie is a variant of other sci-fi movies. Lawsuits are filed.
George Lucas meets with Douglas Trumbull, the director and special effects chief on 1972’s Silent Running, and is all, “Hey, I like those two-footed robots you’ve got, there.” Four years later, the world gets R2-D2 and other biped ‘bots in Star Wars. Universal Studios is all, “Hey, no stealies!” And sues 20th Century Fox.
Then, upon the release of Star Wars knockoff(ish) Battlestar Galactica in 1978, 20th Century Fox is all, “Oh, yeah?” And countersues. All involved parties realize that this game can go on forever (Universal cites copyrighted material in the 1930s Buck Rogers serials) and subsequently throw up their hands in resignation and go home. The end.