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Lightsaber Warning: Lucasfilm Lawsuits

When it comes to film and television clearance issues, there are several high profile cases that serve as cautionary tales for filmmakers, screenwriters, and production houses.

But few clearance related infringement cases, if any, outnumber the long list of Lucasfilm Lawsuits.

With the new film in the limelight, it’s a good time to share the revisit the clearance issues that have been connected the Star Wars franchise over the years.

With sustainable popularity that’s lasted for decades and a new film franchise reigniting Star Wars fandom, it may feel like the right time to use a lightsaber in your next project or have Darth Vader make a cameo.

This is not a good idea.

Even though Star Wars is now the property of Disney, the new film, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, will regenerate interest in using the iconic imagery in art projects.

Now more than ever, it’s crucial to protect your film and television projects, as well as your advertising, video game, and other products, for no other reason than the undoubtedly impending Lucasfilm Lawsuits on the horizon.

This is not to say that the company will sue willy-nilly, but there have been a long list of Star Wars court cases over the years that prove the importance of script clearance, and an overall clearance strategy.

Lucasfilm V. Verizon Wireless

When the Android phone hit the market, the original title was DROID, which is also the moniker of the robot characters in the Star Wars films.

In a court case over the term Droid as a registered trademark, Verizon Wireless had to pay an undisclosed sum to George Lucas to continue using the name.

Lucasfilm V. Dr. Dre

Before several Lucasfilm movies, television shows, and video games roll the opening credits, a THX insignia appears. Alongside this branding, there is a drawn-out sound to signify top-notch audio quality.

The rapper Dr. Dre decided to use this sound in one of his songs. As a result, Lucasfilm sued Dr. Dre.

The rapper ended up paying 1.5 million dollars for an audio clip that lasted a few seconds.

Lucasfilm V. High Frontier and the Reagan Administration

Roughly 30 years ago, then President Ronald Reagan and his cabinet began talks of creating space-based missile defense systems. The short title of this initiative was, appropriately, Star Wars.

The company heading this military initiative was High Frontier.

Even though the public and the media took to calling the idea Star Wars, the name stuck, and officials began using it freely.

George Lucas brought suit on trademark infringement claims.

This time around, no money was awarded. According to court ruling, the press and the public used this term to describe the program, not to disparage or imitate Lucasfilm’ project.

What Does Star Wars Have to Do with Your Project?

Clearance is not something to ignore in the film and television industry. When you protect yourself, you protect your project.

Whether it’s a name, a few notes from a song, or an image, there may be something in your script or your final cut that prompts a costly lawsuit that will kill your project or tie it up in the legal system.

You can avoid these types of cases with our help.

At the same time, it’s important for creative professionals to establish ownership of their own work, less someone else take credit for it.

The Clearance Lab is here to make sure that your work remains your own. To attain a complete clearance package, click here.