Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Supreme Court holds Star Wars helmets not protected

Upholding, unsurprisingly, the conclusions of the lower courts, the Supreme Court (of the United Kingdom) held that there was no copyright in various artefacts made for the fourth Star Wars film, including in particular the Imperial stormtrooper helmet, in Lucaksfilms v Ainsworth [2011] UKSC 39 (summary here: judgment here) - the reinvented court's first foray into copyright law: indeed, its first foray into that area of law that we refer to as intellectual property law ...

However, they did differ from the Court of Appeal on the other question before them, namely whether claims under US copyright law were justiciable in the English courts. A careful analysis of the Rome Convention led the court to conclude that provided there is the necessary basis for in personam jurisdiction an English court could entertain a claim that acts committed outside the EU infringed US copyright law.

The crux of the copyright claim was that the helmet should be treated for copyright purposes as a sculpture, as in 4a in last weekend's Financial Times crossword perhaps. The Supreme Court explored the boundary between copyright and design protection, muddying the water a bit in the process, before coming to the conclusion that this was not a sculpture. The judge (Mann J) had found the helmets to be part costume, part prop, utilitarian articles that conveyed information about the characters. The necessary quality of artistic creation was lacking. The film was the work of art: the helmet was merely an element in the process of making the film.

No comments:


blogger templates | Make Money Online