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Any Star Wars fan will tell you that Jedi mind tricks are cool and all, but having some sick lightsaber skills is where it's at. Perhaps that's why so many academies have popped up across the country, promising to teach self-styled padawans in the ways of the Force and lightsaber choreography.
But George Lucas's empire is striking back. Lucasfilm has filed a federal lawsuit against the owner of Lightsaber Academy, claiming the schools infringe on the films' trademarks without authorization, and sending legal ripples throughout the galaxy.
The Force (of IP Rights) Awakens
As reported by Ars Technica, the lawsuit alleges Michael Brown's academies in New York and California are using trademarked imagery from the Star Wars franchise, as well as the terms "Jedi" and "lightsaber," without permission. The suit claims Brown repeatedly sought a license from Lucasfilm, who "has consistently denied Defendants' requests." Specifically:
Defendants regularly use the Lucasfilm Trademarks without authorization in connection with their businesses. Among other infringing activities, Defendants use a logo ("Defendants' Infringing Logo") that is nearly identical, and confusingly similar, to Lucasfilm's trademark Jedi Order logo. ...Defendants' Infringing Logo, like Lucasfilm's trademark Jedi Order logo, is round in shape, with six wing-like shapes curving upward (three per side), and an eight-pointed star featuring elongated top and bottom points stretched into a vertical line.
Among the infringing activities are websites advertising the lightsaber classes, including: www.LightsaberAcademy.com, www.NewYorkJedi.com, www.LightsaberAcademy.com, www.LightsaberGuild.club, and www.LightsaberGuild.com.
The Phantom Trademark
Lucasfilm's lawsuit also claims that Brown tried to file for two trademarks, one for the academies' logo and one for "New York Jedi," both after receiving cease and desist letters from Lucasfilm. The suit also accuses Brown and his companies of "cybersquatting," for registering the infringing domain names without having trademark rights to the included terms.
The IP Death Star of Lucasfilm has never shied away from a trademark suit, and Brown and his lightsaber academies now find themselves among the resistance. But could this be a case of alienating the very fans on whose rabid appetite for all things Jedi you rely every time a new movie comes out? As Leia warned Grand Moff Tarkin, "The more you tighten your grip ... the more star systems will slip through your fingers."