back to article George Lucas defeated by Stormtrooper helmet man

Andrew Ainsworth, the man who designed the Imperial Stormtrooper uniforms, has won the right to sell replicas. George Lucas has been suing Ainsworth since at least 2008 and the case finally ended up in London's Supreme Court. Ainsworth made the original helmets in 1977 – the legal action treated the helmets as the paradigm …


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  1. Doug Glass

    Way to go ...

    ... free enterprise system!

    1. Chad H.

      Free Enterprise systsem?

      Thats star Trek, not Star Wars

  2. Zog The Undeniable

    It must have been really hard

    to resist using the word "clone" in the copyright writ.

  3. Thomas 4


    One brave soul following the ancient ways to defeat manical despot with unlimited power? Could be a film in there somewhere.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Lucas' empire struck in the back.

  5. Dr Insanity

    Oh No it isn't!

    "The Star Wars films are set in an imaginary, science-fiction world of the future".

    A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away... but still somehow in the future perhaps?!

    1. leeph


      Clever! 10/10 for observation, that man. I believe the author implied that in the original article - how banal of you to point it out for us.

      1. Anonymous Coward


        and how anal of you to bother pointing out that it was already implied there.

      2. Steve the Cynic

        Yes, but...

        Are the fans complaining about the "future" part or the "imaginary" part?

      3. Vic

        Re: Clever

        > how banal of you to point it out for us.

        Pssst! The trick to looking clever is not to miss the reference the author was really making when assuming it was the one you'd already seen...

        Seth MacFarlane has a lot to answer for...


    2. dotdavid


      It would all depend on where and when you were when you were saying it was a long time ago and far away. It could well be that the author of the giant spaceborne text seen at the start of the movies is speaking from our future of events that still happen in our future (but were in his past).

      So, er, yeah to summarise people read way too much into these films ;-)

    3. NomNomNom

      well duh

      If it happened in the future how would we know about it to create a movie? All movies are based on events that happened in the past, not the future.

      A FYI time travel is now officially impossible so don't pull that one

      1. Rob - Denmark

        You are kidding, right? Right? Right?


        "All movies are based on events that happened in the past, not the future."

        That goes for all ScFi movies? LIke '2001: A Space Odyssey' that was released in 1968? I'm so confused right now.

        (I'm using the Icon you should have chosen).

      2. Ammaross Danan


        "A FYI time travel is now officially impossible so don't pull that one"

        Only time travel that requires going faster than the speed of light to achieve it. There are still other ways.

        1. Ronny Cook
          Thumb Up

          Time Travel is nothing special

          I'm travelling in time at the moment - forward at roughly one second per second.

      3. Anonymous Coward

        @well duh

        no.... they proved superluminal photons are impossible, which is what they were testing in the first place.

        1. Michael Dunn

          Re: @well duh

          Q. Why did the superluminal photon cross the road?

          A. Because it was already there.

          (And what about the young lady named Bright?)

      4. Bob Terwilliger

        Time Travel officially impossible?

        I'm doing it now look - zooooooooom!

      5. Dave Murray


        In that case Time Travel is definitely possible because I saw it happen in the film Time Bandits which must have been based on events that actually happened!

        Have you ever heard of the word "fiction"? I suggest you look it up in the dictionary.

    4. Bunker_Monkey
      Thumb Up

      Cause thats..

      Lawyers for you!

    5. Naughtyhorse

      long time ago, galaxy far away...

      nope that suggests to me bloody long long time ago (this assumes the films were shot with the mother of all zoom lenses)

      1. LaeMing

        Assuming a truely infinite universe.... is really happening out there somewhere. An infinite number of times with infinite variations. At all times, past present and future.

        That is a depressing-enough though to go closed-universe for me!

      2. The Indomitable Gall

        Re: long time ago, galaxy far away...


        "nope that suggests to me bloody long long time ago (this assumes the films were shot with the mother of all zoom lenses)"

        Well obviously -- that's why the text's so squint at the start. Proper alignment would have involved travelling several light-centuries due galactic north....

  6. Stephen Gray


    "Ainsworth later sold replicas and made between $8,000 and $30,000 in total. A company controlled by billionaire Lucas won damages in a California court of $20m." Wow is that what passes for justice in the land of the free. Bit harsh IMHO

    1. g e

      Not just any justice

      This is jUStice

      (jUSAtice?) which is a lot like democrUSAcy, which often follows the kind of freedom that gets bombed into you.

      1. Anonymous Coward

        Carefull now...

        Either you're with them, or you're with the terrorists.

        1. Andus McCoatover

          Being careful

          With the US mindset, I think I'd rather be with the terrorists.

    2. Stupidscript

      Socialist, much?

      You are implying that because the Lucas enterprise's valuation was noted during the article that somehow it has a bearing on the damages award. Please explain your implied connection.

      Do you mean that if Lucas enterprise were valued lower, then the award would have been lower? Or that if Lucas had no enterprise to value then he would not have been awarded anything at all?

      Or are you saying that the justice system is messed up, in some way, due to the valuation of Lucas' enterprise?

      And your evidence for this is a damages award that has now been overturned ... leading you to decry American justice as a practice that once rewarded Lucas, but has now stripped him of that reward, and is therefore ... righteous? Or not righteous, due to the reversal?

      You also imply that Ainsworth in some way "deserved" to sell what he calls "replicas", but which are actually no less "official" than the units used in the films.

      Please explain why you think that an artisan employed under contract by Lucas for the express purpose of manufacturing costumes for a film series is now entitled to continue producing costumes for personal gain, identical to and in direct competition with those costumes produced for retail sale by the Lucas enterprise under its own copyright, and using the molds and materials Lucas owns the exclusive intellectual property rights to.

      You seem to be advocating for any worker in a production line to produce and sell the product that comes off that production line for their own benefit, and at the expense of the company that actually owns and operates that production line.

      Strange sense of "justice", you have there.

      1. JohnG

        Re: Socialist, much?

        Lucas did not lose 20 000 000 USD because someone else sold some helmets and made up to 30 000 GBP, so the damages claimed and awarded in the US were fictional. In other parts of the world, claimants have to prove the levels of damages which they claim, not simply pluck large numbers from thin air. That is the issue with US justice in this case.

        Lucas's substantial wealth is relevant in that, by pursuing an individual over such a small sum, he looks like a vindictive bully.

        "...using the molds and materials Lucas owns the exclusive intellectual property rights to"

        Ainsworth owns the intellectual property rights as it was he that designed and built the original helmets, using his own materials - apparently, this is more important than being rich, having expensive lawyers and well-known friends.

        1. Charles Manning

          A reasonable millionaire...

          ... would have thought it great that someone was helping to build his fan base. He should have been happy about all the ego-rub.

          No, instead he gets vindictive and chases the money.

      2. veti Silver badge

        Strange sense of "justice" you have there

        Well, yes. If Lucas Enterprises were valued at $500, do you seriously think they'd ever have persuaded a court to grant them a $20 million judgment? There's definitely a connection there, for starters.

        And it's not American justice that's stripped the reward. As far as American justice is concerned, Lucas is in the right. As I understand it, it if Ainsworth ever sets foot in the Land of the Free, Lucas will be entitled to the shirt off his back and about 800 years of indentured servitude.

        "which are actually no less "official" than the units used in the films" - please define "official" in that context?

        As for "why an artisan ... is now entitled to continue producing costumes for personal gain"... because the design was Ainsworth's in the first place. He never sold it to Lucasfilm - all he sold was a number of helmets and costumes. If anyone should be sued for copyright violation here, it's Lucas himself.

        You seem to be advocating that when an artist does work for hire, the copyright should automatically belong to their employer. If that were the case, then there wouldn't have needed to be clauses in every employment contract I've ever signed saying that the copyrights in works I create as part of my work belong to my employer. If Lucas didn't have a contract to that effect with Ainsworth, he doesn't have a leg to stand on.

      3. Anonymous Coward


        There was no written contract.

  7. irish donkey

    Can we have the discussion

    about the poor creators get a just reward for their creations?

    No... nobody there

    Well done Andrew

    1. Gordon 10


      This is very different to a normal industry where generally the results of your intellectual efforts are owned by your employer.

      I wonder on what terms he was employed on the films?

      1. ttuk

        exactly what i was thinking

        every development job I've ever done the contracts I've signed have made it very, very clear that anything I create as part of my job belongs to my employer..

      2. Number6


        Unless he had an explicit clause in the contract prohibiting him, he's free to make them. The BBC reports that because the helmets are functional and not sculptures (as decreed by the court), they're not works of art and so copyright expires after fifteen years. So in the UK he's free to make and market them.

        1. jm83


          He should've had a contract really.

          I know Lucas is rich enough already and was clearly using bullying tactics. However the helmets and armour wouldnt be worth squat if it wasnt for the films.

          1. Anonymous Coward

            re: contracts

            I'm sure all recent and futures arrangements of the sort use a bog standard contract. Something to the effect of:

            * All your base are belong to Lucas.

            * All your future base, firstborn, Droit du seigneur, etc. are also belong to Lucas.

            * If there's ever a problem, you'll agree to binding arbitration overseen by a firm of Lucas' choosing, for which you'll pay all costs regardless.

            * If anything goes wrong, it's your fault.

            * If all goes well, Lucas takes the spoils.

            * Take it or leave it.

            I've wasted countless hours haggling this kind of nonsense away. Apparently, most folks will just sign anything and hope for the best.

          2. Vic

            Re: Contract

            > the helmets and armour wouldnt be worth squat if it wasnt for the flms.

            Not *completely* true.

            There was a documentary made a few years ago about the Humboldt squid - a particularly vicious and cunning predator. The divers all wore armour to protect themaselves from the squid, and were attached to the boat with steel cables to prevent them being dragged off.

            The armour was all Storm Trooper stuff. It was claimed in the film that it had been made by the same guys as did the Star Wars armour, so it's probably this geezer.

            Nevertheless, the intrinsic value of this armour is not nearly as much as the additional merchandising value...


        2. Ken Hagan Gold badge

          Re: Copyright

          Yes, indeedy. I find the general reactions to this case curious. It seems that we're now so used to copyright being "essentially forever" that when confronted by an instance of "no longer in copyright" we can't quite believe that it's true.

          I expect one reason why Lucas fought this case is that one could probably argue that other props from the original film are now similarly out of copyright. Is a light-sabre functional or sculptural?

          1. ttuk


            out of copyright.. and no contract in the first place anyway.. Makes sense.

            Screw Lucas!

          2. Dave 15

            light-sabre == oddly shaped torch

            After all I've never seen one that can kill someone but I have seen the kids ones light up the path...

            1. Anonymous Coward

              Next thing you know

              Next thing you know Lucas will be trying to sue the British Army and Sterling Armaments Company for there use of the Sterling Sub-Machine Gun - Which was the main Stormtrooper weapon with the magzine port covered and the stock folded forward......

          3. Michael Dunn


            Is a light-sabre functional or sculptural?

            I think you'll have to search very hard for a functional light-sabre.

        3. Dave 15

          Art vs functional....

          So the pile of dirty nappies and the heap of old tyres that were both proclaimed as art might not have been after all ?

      3. Bobl

        RE: Interesting

        Only if that is part of your employment terms, which it usually is at least by implication.

        If you use a designer or advertising agency or..... to do a logo for you, or a website, or advertising material, or a special table or......

        Then unless you get them to give you the copyright etc it remains theirs.

  8. Anonymous Coward

    That's No Moon..

    Clearly The Force was with Ainsworth, or at least his lawyers.

  9. Anonymous Coward

    Beardy billionaire beaten by brave Brit

    correction :

    Beardy billionaire beaten by brave beardy Brit

    1. Puck


      Facial hair! The missing angle!

  10. The Fuzzy Wotnot

    So how does this work now?

    I come up with an idea and ask a bloke to make something related to that idea, pay him for his time and tell him I maintain the copyrights on the designs which he can't have. He can then bugger off and make as many copies as he wishes, he can make money from my designs and there's fuck all I can do about it?

    I don't give a monkey's about Lucas or Star Wars quite frankly ( yes I was old enough to have seen it at the cinema as a nipper in the 70's, I just don't think it's that great ) but surely I must have missed something technical in the case? This seems the complete opposite to what normally happens in these sorts of cases, you rip my ideas off and I take you to the cleaners.

    1. Giles Jones Gold badge

      You've missed a lot

      You must have missed the bit about the copyright on art being much longer than functional designs.

      If he proves they are a functional design (which he did) then the copyright has expired. If they are deemed to be art (which I agree, they aren't) then the copyright has not expired.

    2. The Commenter formally known as Matt

      point of order

      >and tell him I maintain the copyrights on the designs which he can't have.

      Lucas didn't do this bit.

      I know this wasn't what was argued in the case, but if you start making up facts to support your case then your whole post is... doomed (last word said in a generic voice, def not sounding like a slightly depressed android, sorry droid)

    3. PatientOne

      Yes, you missed something.

      What you missed was what was missing: A written contract.

      You also missed another important point: The props were out of copyright by the time they were being sold.

      So, in your analogy above: You weren't ripped off as the guy didn't just bugger off immediately and make as many copies as he wanted. He had to wait until your rights had expired before doing so. So you had time to capitalize on your design before he could make a penny outside of sales to you. Oh, and you didn't issue him with a limited license that restricted sales of your design to you so you can't stop him from producing genuine copies from your original design, either.

    4. BristolBachelor Gold badge

      @ Fuzzy Wotnot

      And in a similar court case, the Schaffner who filmed "Planet of the apes" is now sueing everybody who ever made an ape costume becuase he once bought 50 of them from the local fancy-dress shop for his film...

  11. Is it me?

    You know

    The winners here were the lawyers. I'll bet if it was up to Mr. Lucas the man he would have said, these are a great niche product that harms our brand not one bit, just ask for $25 an individually made helmet, and we're good to go.

    But sadly Lucas the corporation would rather have 25c a helmet on a cheap manufactured product that sells in millions and is thrown in the bin after six months, because one will make maybe $10 thou. at most, and the other $20 Million.

    Sad really.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      Stop trying to excuse the action. Lucas himself was definitely involved in the action, the lawyers themselves didn't bring the action without his say so. And the other film makers involved show the true colours of these people.

    2. Glyn 2


      Are you mad.

      This is George "let's make another figure of floppy hatted Luke" Lucas, the world's premiere money grabbing bastard. Star Wars special editions, another reissue of the films on dvd, this time with 3 minutes added fluff, the fecking prequels, STAR WARS IN 3D FFS.

      They sold a lit sabre figure of ObiWan Kenobi with a green lightsabre instead of a blue one because a blue LED cost 0.02 cents more than a green one. The man is an souless accountant (my apologies to accountants everywhere)

      I would go on but my bile cup has run over


      an ex-Star wars fan

  12. Wize


    I thought he was beaten up by someone dressed as a Stormtrooper.

    1. Nunyabiznes


      "I HOPED he was beaten up by someone dressed as a Stormtrooper."

  13. SK

    Lucas' people turn against him,,,

    One of the Justices was "Lord Walker"

    1. James Hughes 1

      Excellent spot that man.

      No text of any relevance.

  14. Anonymous Coward

    Next candidate...

    for extradition...

    STOP this nonsense forthwith

  15. Tieger

    @fuzzy wotnot

    depends how the contracts were done. remember that when star wars was first created, it wasnt a huge thing. lucas might well have looked at various helmets different people were making, sent specs to a few places, that sort of thing. lucas didnt, at that time, have the power to dictate terms to people. i'd guess it was only after the films were so succeful that he decided that he shouldve got the rights on all the imagery and items and such, by which time its a bit late really - but hey, if you've got billions you can try to shout louder and longer than your opposition.

    ...and you can make 3 prequel movies (that you 'planned to make all along, honest') that have less 'essence-of-star-wars' to them than do the 5 minute videos made for SW:TOR :P

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Copyright Copyright COPYRIGHT

      "depends how the contracts were done."

      No, it doesn't. It depends on the copyright law that said that these are out of copyright and therefore ANYONE can make them now. This guy, since he was the original maker, was in a prime position to do so, but you or I could have done so too. Possibly, he could have been restrained from making them even once copyright had expired but that would not bind anyone else and, given that no one else would be bound, a court would probably strike out that clause in his contract anyway if he asked.

  16. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    @So how does this work now

    Same way as if you hire a wedding photographer, they keep the copyright on the pictures they take of you.

    It's the difference between saying to an artist, "design some scary helmet" and saying to an employee "make the mold curve exactly this way at this point and put an eye hole this shape at that point"

    It's particularly disengenous of Peter Jackson to chime in. They were very careful to do all the designs for their creatures and costumes at a design house they own - so they (Weta) rather than New Line (the film producers) would own the designs

    1. TeeCee Gold badge

      @YAAC Re: Jackson

      You mean the same way that Lucas' various companies ended up owning everything Star Wars related rather than Fox?

      1. Sooty

        no secret

        "You mean the same way that Lucas' various companies ended up owning everything Star Wars related rather than Fox?"

        Due to the belief of Fox that it would completely bomb, Lucas specifically took a risk on getting very little pay for his work, to ensure it got made at all, on the proviso that he got to keep the 'worthless' merchandising rights. Fox were laughing all the way to the bank with that deal... for a few years anyway.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      "Same way as if you hire a wedding photographer, they keep the copyright on the pictures they take of you."

      That's a bad example for two reasons.

      Firstly the photographer may retain copyright, but that's not the same as reproduction rights. Unless you sign a release allowing the photographer to publish the images then s/he has no right to do so. The laws relating to photographs are not the same as those relating original designs.

      The second reason is even simpler. The copyright on the helmets expired many years ago.

      1. jm83

        re: Lucas

        According to one Prof Kermode, Lucas himself admits he can't tell a story he just thinks of the characters of action figures. He also apparently believes all the scenes that ever need to be imagined have already been filmed and so just copies whats already out there.

  17. jhml2011
    Paris Hilton


    The phrase, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away is slightly redundant - what we percieve travels to our eyes at the speed of light so everything is in the past. The further away the older it is. For ir to be in someones future they would have to be even further away.

    Paris, becuase she loves physics...


    1. Anonymous Coward

      just because it's far away doesn't mean it's older

      it just means you see an older version of it

  18. Anonymous Coward

    George Lucas beaten by his own Helmet

    Nuff said.

    1. TheRead

      @Jim Booth

      I'm pretty sure we just found out the helmet isn't actually his anymore.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Those of you going on about contracts have missed an important point. The law will always override what is contained in a contract. So it doesn't really matter what was contained in the original contract, if such a contract existed at all. If the helmets are out of copyright (as the court decided they were) then anybody has the right to manufacture and sell them. It would be ridiculous if a contract could restrict the original manufacturer from selling the helmets while the law would allow anybody else to sell them.

    BTW I agree with the court that the items are not art. They were built to fulfil a function, that function being props in a film.

    1. Chad H.

      could it not be aruged then

      That a painting serves a function - that function being to look pretty on my wall?

    2. LaeMing


      Contracts are for clarifying rights/responsibilities under the law. They are not accepted to replace the law or any parts of.

      Same reason most click-through EULAs are not worth the paper they are printed on - they are either re-iterating existing law or contradicting it, neither of which means much in a court.

  20. Gordon 10

    That's no moon

    That's Mr Ainsworth's hairy arse doing a victory dance.

  21. DrStrangeLug

    All up for grabs

    The judgment references the 1988 copyright designs and patent act.

    Section 52 of that acts reads that any use under license of an artistic design through an industrial process renders the design applicable for public use 25 years after the end of the calendar year it was first marketed, so long as it was marketed in the UK.

    Unless all those toys in the late 70s were hand made then most of the prime star-wars designs now go to public domain in the UK.

    1. The Indomitable Gall

      Ah, now I see.

      I was wondering in what screwy world a film prop was a "functional item" rather than a piece of dubious "art". Mass production -- suddenly everything becomes clear.

  22. Dave 15


    A guy who is raking in millions in royalties and so forth for a set of not so bad, but hardly brilliant, movies goes after a chap making a handful of thousands... what a stupid nutter.

    1. LaeMing

      I imagine he was going for a good bit more than that.

      Possible attempt to stop the first before the many realise they can do the same? How many more people from small moulding operations to mega-toy-makers are now checking if they actually have to pay a royalty for what SW-related products now!

  23. Anonymous Coward

    Who cares..

    Now my motorcycle helmet can be shaped after, y'know.. and not getting sued. Be called names as Dork or Geek, but not sued.

    Where have I seen headphones that copy princess Leia haircut? Oh yeah, Spaceballs.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    But will he ever get another job

    making stuff for the film world?

  25. mark l 2 Silver badge

    copyright expired

    From what i am reading here the court ruling was that because it was classed as a functional item and not work of art the copyright expired after 15 years.

    Does this therefore mean that its not only Ainsworth who can now reproduce copies of the stormtrooper helmet but any one else can start making and selling them outside the US because its out of copyright?

    1. Galidron

      Not necessarily

      That is the case for the UK, but other countries outside the US may have more stringent laws.

    2. LaeMing
      Thumb Up

      Looks like it to me

      Though as he has the origional moulds, only he can claim 'genuine' I imagine.

  26. Urh


    A New Hope washed over me when I read about the outcome of this case. I hope Mr Ainsworth is able to make a few quid before the Empire Strikes Back. Perhaps he can mass produce some uniforms an orchestrate a pre-emptive Attack of the Clones.

    Mine's the one with the lightsabre in the pocket.

  27. Captain Thyratron

    Can we knock off this nonsense already?

    Thanks to the state of modern IP laws and their related legal precedents, it is now easier than ever for a company to rob one of its employees of his life's work. Now you can own the patents for everything he invents, own the copyrights for every creative work he produces, and generally screw him over if he ever does anything with those ideas that doesn't involve giving you money, because you can tell him he can either sign this contract or get a job elsewhere (where a similar contract awaits).

    Half a century ago, it might have required a bit more effort, or at least have been considered immoral. Now and then, one of the people who gets screwed over wins a protracted court battle at enormous personal expense, and we like to think it means things are getting better.

    Do mechanisms for the legal recognition of the ownership of ideas really benefit society, or just the people with the money to stuff those ideas in a safe and sue the crap out of anybody who objects?

  28. ChrisInAStrangeLand

    the future

    "set in an imaginary, science-fiction world of the future"

    Nineteen Seventy Four.

  29. Stratman


    Andrew Ainsworth said: "......................... I can now focus on producing authentic replicas for serious collectors of these items in the UK."

    Perhaps their girlfriends can buy them one.........

  30. Scott Wheeler

    @Michael Dunn

    The light-sabre was indeed functional, as a flash unit for a Speed Graphics Graflex camera.

  31. Ooo-wait-BUT!

    use the force, not lawyers

    Naughty George... that's hadly the spirit of the Jedi Way is it?

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