[FONT=Comic Sans MS]I did look for this news in the forum, but i did not see it. If it does exists, please let me know and i will delete this....
George Lucas’s empire failed to strike back yesterday after he lost a legal battle with the British maker of Stormtrooper helmets for the film Star Wars.
Andrew Ainsworth recently began selling replicas of helmets and armour made from his original mould, prompting a $20million (£12million) lawsuit from Lucasfilm. But the Court of Appeal agreed that even though Mr Ainsworth did not own the design, he had not broken any British law because his creations were not art.
“It’s taken five years but I think this should be just about the end of it,” Mr Ainsworth told The Times. He now plans to expand his memorabilia company.
Lucasfilm, however, said that it would take the case to Britain’s new Supreme Court and said that the ruling meant that famous props such as the Daleks from Doctor Who could be freely copied.
“The judges in the case dismissed the creative efforts of film designers and prop makers in general, saying that props are the work of people who ‘did not make it as artists’ and not fine art that should be valued under the law,” the company said.
Mr Ainsworth was an industrial designer when he made the helmets in 1976, on a plastic forming machine that was usually “churning out kayaks and watersports stuff”. He was recruited via a friend who was working with Mr Lucas at Shepperton Studios. “We just made it on spec. I didn’t even know it was for a film to begin with,” he said.
Mr Ainsworth made 50 helmets, for which he was paid £20 each. He also made equipment for other characters, earning about £30,000 from the Star Wars films. Lucasfilm’s earning from merchandise is estimated at more than $10billion.
In 2004 Mr Ainsworth realised that “the memorabilia market had really kicked off”, and began selling replicas of the models.
Lucasfilm sued him in the United States. He did not defend the case — “taking on Lucas on his home patch is not a good idea” — and a California court awarded $20million in damages against him, even though he had sold only 19 models in the US. When Lucasfilm tried to enforce its case in Britain, Mr Ainsworth appealed in the The Times for help. “I got calls from about a dozen good lawyers,” he said.
Mr Justice Mann ruled that the models were not sculptures and so did not have copyright protection, which would extend 70 years beyond the death of their creator. Instead he ruled that the models were industrial designs, which could be protected for only 15 years.
Yesterday Lord Justices Rix, Jacob and Patten agreed, dismissing Lucasfilm’s appeal. They said that the helmet and armour had a “utilitarian” rather than artistic purpose. They also ruled that Lucasfilm could not enforce its US copyright in Britain, but agreed that Mr Ainsworth did not own the copyright. He has a bill of more than £2.5million, although he will seek to recover many of his costs from Lucasfilm.
Mark Owen, Lucasfilm’s solicitor, said: “The film is a piece of art, and all the components are part of that.”
Asked how he might celebrate, Mr Ainsworth said: “Maybe we’ll go and find another galaxy.”