major_clanger: Clangers (Royal Mail stamp) (Legal Clanger)
...for it's not a short judgment. The full version is available here; I was lucky enough to pick up one of the copies printed out for media and the public (I got the last one) and it's about half an inch think. If nothing else, I suspect that this case has defoliated the Forest Moon of Endor. In great detail, Mr Justice Mann goes into the question of whether prop-maker Mr Andrew Ainsworth infringed Lucasfilm's rights by making and selling copies of the Imperial Stormtrooper helmets and armour from Star Wars, items he had made for the original film production.

Legal Analysis - with interesting implications for costume fans )

To summarise then: both Lucasfilm and Mr Ainsworth will be looking ahead to the next legal round, Ainsworth probably with a wary eye on his possible legal bill (which is of course fiddling small change to Lucasfilm), whilst Mr Justice Mann's judgment not only provides useful clarification of some famously vague areas of copyright law but on the face of it removes, in the UK at least, copyright protection from very many costumes and props depicted on film and TV, as well as provided exemption for their reproduction even where copyright may subsist. Meanwhile, we await Lucasfilm v Ainsworth, Part II: Return of Queen's Counsel.
major_clanger: Clangers (Royal Mail stamp) (IP Law)
I've just skimmed Mann J's voluminous judgment. In a nutshell, Ainsworth was facing 3 parallel claims:

- That he infringed copyright in the UK.
- That he was subject to the judgment Lucasfilm obtained against him by default in the US.
- That he could be sued in an English court for US copyright infringement.

Ainsworth won on the first two (and some subsidiary issues) but lost on the third. There will now have to be a further hearing to assess the claim under US law.
major_clanger: Clangers (Royal Mail stamp) (IP Law)
I was wondering if Mann J was going to get around to it before the Summer court recess, but looking at the latest High Court cause list I see:

COURT 52
Before MR JUSTICE MANN
Thursday, 31 July 2008
At 2 o'clock

Robed
FOR JUDGMENT
TRIAL LIST
TLC 241/07 Lucasfilm Ltd v Ainsworth & ors


My earlier reports on the progress of this case:

http://www.livejournal.com/users/major_clanger/280933.html
http://www.livejournal.com/users/major_clanger/288594.html
http://www.livejournal.com/users/major_clanger/290584.html

I rather doubt that the Imperial Stormtroopers will be back in court for the actual judgment, but nonetheless this should be very interesting - well, to those of us who are intellectual property geeks. In particular, one of the areas covered is actually relevant to my dissertation, and I'd been hoping that judgment would be given in time for me to have the very latest judicial opinion on the matter. I'll do my best to be in court and let you all know how it goes.
major_clanger: Clangers (Royal Mail stamp) (IP Law)
To RCJ Court 52 once again this morning, where Lucasfilm v Ainsworth is now stretching to Dickensian lengths. To be fair, every civil action that goes into a second week will sooner or later be touted as the new Jarndyce v Jarndyce, but that Imperial Stormtrooper has been standing in court for a good fortnight now.

Another hack through the legal thickets )

So, who's winning? I've had to dip in and out, but it does sound as if Mr Ainsworth may have made good progress with the argument that the helmets were an industrial design rather than copyright items of artwork. But what was really notable was the admission that Lucasfilm, having dragged him to court with the Damoclesian sword of a $10M court judgment hanging over him, today seemed to say "of course, we wouldn't actually try to bankrupt the poor chap." I got the definite feeling that Mr Justice Mann was not at all impressed at this approach to resolving the underlying dispute, and it may well be that his eventual judgment will say something about it. How soon we see that judgment I can't say - the case seems set to run at least another couple of days, and given the amount of evidence presented and the complexity of some of the legal issues, I expect that judgment will be reserved, quite possibly for weeks or months. If I'm around when it's given though, I'll try to be in court to hear it.
major_clanger: Clangers (Royal Mail stamp) (Legal Clanger)
Being in the Strand area this afternoon I popped into the High Court again to see how things were progressing in Lucasfilm v Ainsworth, aka the Stormtrooper Armour Copyright Case.

Gosh, I've done some of this in class )
major_clanger: Clangers (Royal Mail stamp) (IP Law)
I'd vaguely been planning on sitting in on some High Court cases regarding intellectual property over the next few months, but when I saw a reference to a particular copyright case due to start today I just knew I had to drop everything and head on over to the Royal Courts of Justice. After all, how often do you get the chance to see an Imperial Stormtrooper in court?

I'm not kidding. Lucasfilm v Ainsworth is being heard in Court 52, one of the modern courtrooms in the Thomas More tower at the RCJ ([livejournal.com profile] bugshaw and [livejournal.com profile] purplecthulhu would recognise it; it's identical to the courtroom where B's case against her stepmother was heard). The frontmost desk, right in front of Mr Justice Mann, held a range of hemlets and props, in the shape of Stormtrooper and TIE Pilot helmets, a Tusken Raider head and a dismantled set of Stormtrooper armour, whilst a pair of mannequins on the left hand side of the courtroom next to the racked shelves of law reports displayed a full Stormtrooper armour set and another TIE helmet. Almost as soon as we had started, the Judge asked lead counsel for Lucasfilm if the assorted characters would be there throughout the trial. Michael Bloch QC suggested that they would, noting that they were unlikely to rustle papers or make mobile phone calls so should not pose much risk of disturbing proceedings...

This report on the case sums up the issues well. At heart it is like many other copyright cases: the central question is whether the creative work under dispute was produced by someone under employment or as an independent contractor. On the basis of the opening arguments today though there will be some other issues brought into play, such as the extent to which Mr Ainsworth originated elements of the costume designs or simply implemented designs produced by conceptual artists such as Ralph McQuarrie. (McQuarrie, a noted SF designer, won't be appearing in person, but has given a written witness statement.) It also seems that there will be an argument over the extent to which the Stormtrooper armour is a creative artwork - in effect, a sculpture - or more of a prototype product design, like a shoe or handbag. This is important because the protection given to product designs is much shorter than that which subsists in copyright. In a nutshell, it looks like Mr Ainsworth will be arguing that the Stormtrooper armour is protected by design right, not copyright, and if so then the design protection has expired, or alternatively if it is protected by copyright, then said copyright rests at least in part with him. Lucasfilm will be arguing that copyright is the appropriate form of protection, and that Mr Ainsworth either didn't create the helmet design or that if he did so it was for them and that they thus own the copyright.

The case is apparently scheduled to last ten days. This may sound a lot but it is clear that there will be a lot of evidence for Mr Justice Mann to pore over regarding the creative process behind the films - a matter not made easier by the key events having taken place more than thirty years ago. I won't have time to follow the whole case in court but I'll see if I can pop in again in a few days' time, hopefully when there is some more substantive legal discussion of the IP issues at hand.

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