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George Lucas Wields Light Saber

michael posted about 13 years ago | from the your-schwartz-is-as-big-as-mine dept.

It's funny.  Laugh. 139

sarchasm writes: "Apparently George Lucas is suing medical intsrument company Minrad for calling some of its new laser-based surgical devices Light Sabers. According to the suit: "Any deficiencies or faults in the quality of the defendant's goods are likely to reflect negatively upon, tarnish and seriously injure the reputation which Lucasfilm has established for goods and services marketed under its Light Saber mark. This confusion is likely to result in loss of revenues to Lucasfilm and damage to its reputation."" I know that I myself have on occasion confused surgical cutting implements and little-plastic-flashlights-with-plastic-cones. If you go into surgery, and the surgeon has one of these, he's made the same mistake, and you'd better let him know!

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In other news... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2186782)

George Lucas sues physists for using his copyrighted term "the Force" when referring to questionable products such as gravity, which may tarnish its good name.

Puh, whatever...

All-Michael frontpage! (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2186783)

One more to go and you've got it!

Re:You have no clue. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2186784)

Not really right, no. It depends how unique the trademark is, as well as how widespread it is.
For example, Sun has a trademark on the Java computer language. If I made a language and called it Java, I would be infringing. If I opened a coffee shop called "The Java", that would not be an infringement.
However consider words and phrases that have no history of common use, like "Microsoft", "Compaq" or "Mickey Mouse". The first two are nonsense words, and in the US, Microsoft and Compaq can enforce their trademark in any realm. You could not sell Microsoft Beer in the US, or open a "Compaq Diner". "Mickey" and "Mouse" are both common enough words, but the combination phrase is unique enough to have general trademark protection.
In this case, I think it's pretty obvious that "Light Saber" is a Star Wars reference and violates Lucas's trademark.

Re:Solution: (2)

Anonymous Coward | about 13 years ago | (#2186785)

Lucas SuckS!!! HE is such a greedy asshole!! Just look at star wars episode I. Okay he goes on and says it won't be on DVD till parts 2 and 3 are done. And adds some crap about DVD tech not being good enough quality for his movies. So it is only available on VHS(yea good quality here), so we all go and buy the video tape of it, even if it doesn't match the quality of our DVD players. Now a couple years later, it is being released on DVD. Now all of us VHS buying DVD owners will probably buy it on DVD. Talk about being able to generate some revenue at our expence. Now he is worried about medical instruments tainting his name!! Too late Lucas you did that yourself!!! Ass..

You have no clue. (4)

mosch (204) | about 13 years ago | (#2186786)

Trademarks are categorized. There's absolutely no problem with two different products having a trademark on the same term, as long as they are for unique products, and the trademarks don't cause confusion as to the source of the goods.

Minrad's trademark on Light Saber (they have a live, valid trademark too) is for "G & S: Surgical instruments, namely syringes, trokars, biopsy needles, drills and cannulas adapted to be guided by an energy beam targeting and directing system".

On the other hand, Lucas Licensing's trademark on Light Saber is for "G & S: TOY SWORD".

This is merely a free publicity grab, and it worked.


Short memories - 2 years ago Lightsabers Recalled" (2)

alanw (1822) | about 13 years ago | (#2186788)

"Any deficiencies or faults in the quality of the defendant's goods are likely to reflect negatively upon, tarnish and seriously injure the reputation which Lucasfilm has established for goods and services marketed under its Light Saber mark."

Two years ago, in this Slashdot article [] , light sabres were being recalled because of faults, which caused minor burns and eye irritation.

Call them Beam Sabers. (2)

Glytch (4881) | about 13 years ago | (#2186789)

Just watch out for Professor G's version, it's not quite appropriate for eye surgery.

I am Taco of Slashdot (1)

squarooticus (5092) | about 13 years ago | (#2186790)

"You will disparage all trademark, copyright, and patent claims, except those owned by the things I like: namely, Linux."

Really, people: develop some consistency. As Slashdot's political leanings (leftist statist Commie pinko hypocrisy) become more evident, I find myself reading less and less. It's really sad that this forum has become the sounding board for some really misinformed politics.


Dammit I'm getting in on this.... (1)

Lumpy (12016) | about 13 years ago | (#2186796)

I'm named Timothy therefore I'm suing everyone born after 1968 for trademark abuse.

So Timothy.... Start Coughing up dough for useage fees or change you name....

(NOTE: The above is a joke. Many people here on slashdot cant understand jokes so I have to label it as such.)

Re:it's a good thing he sued! (1)

Dfiant (13407) | about 13 years ago | (#2186797)

You don't think of rotting corpses when you hear the words already? =)

How This Post Should Really Read... (1)

bnf (16861) | about 13 years ago | (#2186798)

sarchasm writes: "Apparently George Lucas is suing the Department of Defense and the federal governmanet for calling some of its new missle defense systems Star Wars. According to the suit: "Any deficiencies or faults in the quality of the defendant's goods are likely to reflect negatively upon, tarnish and seriously injure the reputation which Lucasfilm has established for goods and services marketed under its Star Wars mark. This confusion is likely to result in loss of revenues to Lucasfilm, damage to its reputation and property and casualty damage in some western nations. Lucasfilm would also like to note that the quality of the acting in the film series should be no reflection upon the quality of the engineering in the missle defense system."

Re:Actually... (1)

Elwood P Dowd (16933) | about 13 years ago | (#2186799)

There's no way he's pushing 300. He's not the tallest guy in show business, so he looks heavier in photos. Iduno. Maybe I'm full of shit.

Re:it's a good thing he sued! (2)

Elwood P Dowd (16933) | about 13 years ago | (#2186800)

Except if there's a serious design flaw with them, and 500 people die in surgery because of the "Light Saber Fiasco of 2001," then people might think of rotting corpses when they hear the words "Light Saber" rather than thinking of Luke and Vader.

This would make it harder for Lucas to move toys off shelves, costing him cash. C'mon.

Sue the press corps! (2)

dillon_rinker (17944) | about 13 years ago | (#2186801)

So it's bad to call a device that can be used for saving lives a Light Saber, but it's OK to call a huge military-industrial boondoggle Star Wars?

And regardless of your opinion of a super-tech missile defense system, you've got to admit that it's been presented by the mainstream press exactly as I described it.

Well, now. Ain't that ironic? (2)

Randy Rathbun (18851) | about 13 years ago | (#2186802)

"Any deficiencies or faults in the quality of the defendant's goods are likely to reflect negatively upon, tarnish and seriously injure the reputation which Lucasfilm has established for goods and services marketed..."

And this is from the company that brought us Jar Jar Binks and Howard the Duck...

Yet another person pusaded by the dark side (5)

hardaker (32597) | about 13 years ago | (#2186806)

You'd hope that Lucas wouldn't have fallen.

His Lawyers: That's right *show* your anger George: oh. Ok. Luke: nooooooooooo.....

A good thing [tm] (5)

miahrogers (34176) | about 13 years ago | (#2186807)

I, unlike most of you, happen to be a Master Certifiied Jedi Knight (MCJK). If I went into surgery, which is of course not likely do to my incredible pain tolerance and fighting abilities, one of these 'light sabres' wouldn't just cut me, it would make me dissappear.

Therefore I fully support all action that George takes against these people, but please George, don't get too full of yourself.

He has no choice. (5)

chill (34294) | about 13 years ago | (#2186808)

Trademarks, unlike copyrights, must be defended vigorously or they are lost.

If he doesn't defend against this, it can mean that his ENTIRE CLAIM on "light saber" is lost. Some other company can then make duplicates of the toys and call them the same thing.

The wording used "loss of revenue" and "tarnish the reputation" is standard Trademark-Suit boilerplate and comes from the legal requirements to sue over this sort of thing.

It is silly, but that is the way trademark law works.

Charles E. Hill

Re:It sort of makes sense (2)

p3d0 (42270) | about 13 years ago | (#2186809)

I agree. And if these things turn out to suck bigtime (eg. accidentally slice clean through someone's abdomen), and people associate the term "light saber" with "highly dangerous medical instrument and associated cover-up scandal", it's not the plastic toys' image which may be tarnished, but the movies themselves, past and future.

(Although, I think he did a pretty good job of tarnishing them himself with that last stinker...)

Reagan is also getting sued (2)

Yet Another Smith (42377) | about 13 years ago | (#2186810)

Well I vowed never to see another Star Wars movie in the late '80s, when I found out that Reagan was going to use Star Wars to blow up the whole world, especially the little babies! How could George Lucas be responsible for making something to blow up little babies? He is a very bad man, and Lucasfilm's reputation and profits should be damaged because I think that he is responsible for everything that Ronald Reagan did!

But I do want a light-saber surgical laser. Think what you could do with those and some Lego Mindstorms!

Re:The report is utterly bogus (3)

interiot (50685) | about 13 years ago | (#2186811)

Do you have any evidence to back this up? It's fine to try to discredit someone else's evidence, but usually you do that by presenting evidence of your own.

I'm unable to find any information at the Lucas Films Ltd. [] website, at the Minrad [] website, or anywhere else..

I heard they already settled. (3)

RavinDave (58826) | about 13 years ago | (#2186812)

They're gonna rename it The Butthead-Director Scalpel [] .

The court should throw this out (5)

signe (64498) | about 13 years ago | (#2186815)

Lucas has 1 trademark for the term "light saber", number 1126220. It's stated very carefully that it is a toy sword, and it is categorized under toys and recreation. He also has another trademark application, serial number 76072226, filed in June of 2000, for the "lightsaber" with the same categorization.

Minrad has one trademark application for the term "light saber", filed in April of 2000. It's categorized under medical equipment. Not anything remotely connected to toys.

This is why the trademark system has categories, and why two people can own the same trademark in different categories. Yeah, Lucas made the term popular. But unless some other toymaker uses the term, he shouldn't have a leg to stand on in a trademark dispute.



Re:Get a closer look (1)

Emil Brink (69213) | about 13 years ago | (#2186816)

Impressive level of technical detail, there. To think that even in the SW universe, "black buttons" are still favored by makers of advanced portable equipment. ;^)

Tarnish WHO'S Reputation? (1)

alteran (70039) | about 13 years ago | (#2186817)

Does George really think the quality of finely- calibrated medical instruments will tarnish the reputation of Star Wars light sabers which disintegrate into 40 pieces of plastic the third time a weak four-year-old swings them?

You know this aint so bad really. (1)

runestar (71495) | about 13 years ago | (#2186818)

This is what the Copywrite laws are for after all. Lucas has the right to defend his claims. Perhaps he should have gone to them and asked them polietly to change the name first before going right to the lawyers. Atleast that's my humble opinion. People resort to Lawyers way to often.

The name Lightsaber is not public domain, and Lucas does have a point. If this product is a colossal failure and starts cutting off arms and legs by mistake, it could cause his franchise to falter. Oh wait Episode I already did that. :)


Re:Isn't that a stupid name for a medial instrumen (1)

jkonrath (72701) | about 13 years ago | (#2186819)

Imagine you're about to go in for major surgery and someone tells you the doctor's going to be using something called a light-saber.

That doesn't scare me. What would scare me is if he put on a helmet with a face shield before he started cutting me...


Re:He has no choice. (5)

BlueUnderwear (73957) | about 13 years ago | (#2186820)

> Trademarks, unlike copyrights, must be defended vigorously or they are lost.

But that doesn't mean he has to sue. He only needs to react. And a perfectly valid reaction would be to grant the light-saber wielding doctors a license to use the term. And no, this won't force him to grant a license to everybody else too; he still keeps the right to consider each infringment individually.

The only thing he cannot do is silently ignore the case. Btw, the purpose of this regulation about "having to react" is actually to protect the "infringer" rather than the trademark owner: it avoids situations like we hav with patents (.gif, etc.), where the owner may wait until the infringer has built a sufficiently large business around the trademark, and then force a costly change of name.

Re:We live in a tremendously litigious society... (2)

Negadecimal (78403) | about 13 years ago | (#2186821)

Unbelievable. You'd think Lucasfilm would be honored that the words 'Light Saber' have infultrated so deeply into pop culture

Reminds me of the '77 Denver Broncos, famous for their "Orange Crush" defense. The soft drink became an unofficial mascot for the team, and fans bought a ton of it... people drank more crush at games than beer. That was, until PepsiCo sued the team for trademark defamation. Idiots.

Redundant, but important. (2)

supabeast! (84658) | about 13 years ago | (#2186822)

Ok, this comes up in every single copyright related post, but I will reiterate it. If copyright/trademark holders allow anyone to use their copyrighted/trademarked IP, even once, without giving permission in advance, anyone else is free to use it under the law. In other words, if Lucas doesn't sue these guys, anyone else can manufacture anything he wants to and call it a lightsaber.

Re:Solution: (2)

JoeShmoe (90109) | about 13 years ago | (#2186823)

Or Laser Saber?

Why not call them (2)

Ravagin (100668) | about 13 years ago | (#2186828)

Laser scalpels? Hells, I'd buy them if you called them laser scalpels... how many SF universes have "laser scalpels?"

Star Trek does, right? Or am I delusional (it's been too long since voyager ended, sniff)?

PS. I have often envisioned a laser-based facial razor, with a low-power scanning beam to detect your facial topography and a higher-powered beam to slice off the hair. I know that's totally impossible, but the name "Laser Razor" would be so much fun to market....

Re:Isn't that a stupid name for a medial instrumen (3)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | about 13 years ago | (#2186831)

Yes, it is a stupid name. They ought to call it the "Light Scalpel(tm)" or the "Light Knife(tm)" or something like that. I think the implied link to Star Wars' lightsabers would still be clear enough, but nobody would have to sue anybody, and it would sound a lot more appropriate in the ears of surgeons and patients.

This could keep George busy (2)

Understudy (111386) | about 13 years ago | (#2186833)

Realizing that they called them "light sabers" and not "something else" sabers is why George is going after them but a search on google [] would keep George in court for a while. I realize that many of these sites have disclaimers and alter the names of their sabers so as to avoid the lawyers from Sith,Sith and Sith. Still I wouldn't mind having one of these []

Re:We live in a tremendously litigious society... (2)

SuiteSisterMary (123932) | about 13 years ago | (#2186835)

Yes, and had the medicos simply asked Lucas for permission, things might have been different. Maybe not. Lucas has been traditionally very very open to people using his trademarks for noncommerical things; take a look at the Troops video, or Park Wars, or the Dude videos, and so on.

Re:He has no choice. (1)

348 (124012) | about 13 years ago | (#2186836)

Sure he has a choice. But that isn't really his motivation. He simply does not want it to appear that he or his company endorse the product. That's all. It's simpler to just say "Please don't use my brand" than to fumble through all the moutains of legal disclamer documentation they would have to do. It really isn't all that big a deal.

More race stuff in one place,

Re:What ever happened to being happy? (1)

jallen02 (124384) | about 13 years ago | (#2186837)

If a company uses another companies trademark the owner HAS to defend it. If they don't the name becomes diluted and they no longer really have it.

The whole point to marketing is that you get something burned into someones brain. Once it is there you have them.

When you heard Light Saber before today the first thing that entered your mind was a Star Wars Light Sabre most likely.

In the marketing world, and we know what good marketing can do *cough MS* *cough MS*, you live and die by your brand recognition.

A lot of /.ers praise MS for their awesome marketing but never really understand some basic concepts of marketing.

I definitely think that all the money Lucas spent building up Star Wars and Light Sabre represent a lot of marketing and money. He gained the brand recognition. He deserves a legal way to defend all of the investment in mindshare. A lot of that mindshare was won through really good filmmaking and memorable marketing. Does he not deserve to defend that?

I see a lot of facetious jokes about "I hope a surgeon doesnt mix up his Light Sabres". That is plainly an asanine and not very well thought joke to make.

It is all about dilution of the trademark and not getting any negative press and thus actually damaging the trademark and investment!


Famous trademarks (1)

yerricde (125198) | about 13 years ago | (#2186839)

Lucas has 1 trademark for the term "light saber", number 1126220. It's stated very carefully that it is a toy sword, and it is categorized under toys and recreation ... Minrad has one trademark application for the term "light saber", filed in April of 2000. It's categorized under medical equipment. Not anything remotely connected to toys.

It's true that trademarks usually are restricted to one domain of goods and services, but sufficiently strong trademarks can gain protection across trademark domains. For example, if a surgical tools company called its new tool "LEGO", don't you think the LEGO Group [] would have a right to sue?

The question here is whether LIGHT SABER® is strong enough and famous enough to cross domains.

DISCLAIMER: Most of the "armchair lawyers" on Slashdot are full of sh*t, myself included.

Trademarking the obvious? (2)

ozbird (127571) | about 13 years ago | (#2186841)

Maybe it's just me, but this practice of trademarking an obvious description of a product is a bit much.

How much innovation went into the creating the term "light saber"? About as much as "cornflake" I'd say, which thankfully has been dismissed as a trademark (though perhaps not for the right reasons .) Had the trademark been for "Golden Crunchies", then fair enough; that isn't a description of the product, and is not likely to be used in common speech. If George wanted to "protect" the (fictional) light saber as a trademark, he should have called them "Luxoloppers(TM)" or something non-obvious.

Next Microsoft will be claiming that "innovation" is their trademark...

Re:It sort of makes sense (1)

Kristopher Johnson (129906) | about 13 years ago | (#2186842)

Yes, it is obvious that this is not just a case where someone independently came up with the same name for an entirely different product. There is the possibility that these medical devices might be defective or used improperly, and Lucas wouldn't want "Child Killed by Light Saber" posted all over the news. I think it is in Lucas's best interest to maintain control over the names of his stuff. I'm sure he's not happy about the term "Star Wars" being used to refer to ABM technologies. But he can't sue Reagan over it. -- Kris

Hey I just thought of something... (2)

Hellmongr (132101) | about 13 years ago | (#2186843)

If a trademark looses its validity when the term becomes "diluted" or a commonly used word to describe something, does that mean that the "Coke" trademark has lost its validity because people also frequently use the word to describe cocaine? Or is it only if people use the term "Coke" to describe a cola beverage. (which many do by the way).

Just a thought...

Re:He has no choice. (1)

SLi (132609) | about 13 years ago | (#2186845)

Trademarks are only valid within a certain business area - e.g. Intel is probably trademarked in computing, but they could have no claim against a restaurant named Intel because there's no danger of confusion. Otherwise we would have ran out of usable names long long ago...

Re:Just switch the name to (1)

SLi (132609) | about 13 years ago | (#2186846)

Do you think that helps?

I'm sure you would be sued out of existence if you founded a company named "Microslot" and started producing operating systems named "Microslot Wildows".

Remember, it's not about the name being exactly the same, it's about being confusingly similar.

Re:He has no choice. (5)

locutus074 (137331) | about 13 years ago | (#2186847)

Trademarks, unlike copyrights, must be defended vigorously or they are lost.

Yes, but also unlike copyrights, trademarks are only valid in one field. For example, take the case of the trademark [] on Linux (TM) laundry detergent [] . The different classes for which trademarks are defined [] are on the USPTO's web site [] .


Does this mean window companies can sue Microsoft? (2)

MongooseCN (139203) | about 13 years ago | (#2186848)

Microsoft has ruined the word Windows because of the quality of their products they release. So shouldn't the window industry be able to sue MS now? Sure they are completely unrelated, but so are toys and surgical instruments.

Re:Get a closer look (1)

plone (140417) | about 13 years ago | (#2186849)

lets not forget about the rectangles. I dodnt think light saber technology would have ever suceeded if it never had the essential "rectangle" component in it.

Old news (3)

egburr (141740) | about 13 years ago | (#2186851)

They have to wait for a story to be at least a dat or two old before accepting story submissions on it?

2001-07-27 00:53:54 Star Wars vs. a medical tool (science,patents) (rejected)

Edward Burr

And if it works well? (1)

HerrGlock (141750) | about 13 years ago | (#2186852)


If it doesn't work worth a darn, people already know the name lightsaber from Star Wars and know what one is. The doctors will figure out it's a piece of crap faster than the marketing will and if it doesn't work, it'll die quietly. If it does work, though, it's not going to damage anything name-wise, but will equate light sabers with life saving devices.

Cav Pilot's Reference Page []

Re:He has no choice. (1)

Frizzle Fry (149026) | about 13 years ago | (#2186853)

That's untrue. If I wanted to bring out the "Mickey Mouse" line of toilet cleaners, I can assure you I would be sued and lose.


Just curious (3)

Frizzle Fry (149026) | about 13 years ago | (#2186854)

Does anyone know if Lucas sued to stop the use of the term "Star Wars" to refer to the missile defense program? Even if it wasn't an official name, he could have tried to stop newspapers from calling it that in the same way Rollerblade writes tons of letters (or used to) to publications asking them to please use the phrase "in-line skates". Well, did he?


Re:Why not call them (2)

gilroy (155262) | about 13 years ago | (#2186855)

Blockquoth the poster:
Star Trek does, right? Or am I delusional (it's been too long since voyager ended, sniff)?
Shedding tears at the demise of Voyager? Yep, you're delusional. :)

trademark (1)

Alcoholist (160427) | about 13 years ago | (#2186857)

I wonder if rushing to court to sue a company in a divergent industry tarnishes the reputation of Lucasfilm?

On the other hand, borrowing a well established name to flog your stuff is as unimaginative as it is cheap-ass. They deserve what they get.

Please...step away...from the Light Sabre... (1)

jester-tx (170962) | about 13 years ago | (#2186858)

Personally, if a doctor needed to perform a bone biopsy on me (what I understand Minrad's device does) and he says "We're going to be using the Light Sabre today...." all he would be seeing of me is my backside heading out the front door.

...darn, there goes my story... (2)

jeko (179919) | about 13 years ago | (#2186859)

As an actual candidate for minor eye surgery (PRK), I'm sort of diappointed. I was so looking forward to being able to walk around and tell people with a straight face --

...and that's when the eye surgeon took a light saber and hacked a chunk of my eye out. Anyway, that's why a missed work last week...

it's a good thing he sued! (3)

fonebone (192290) | about 13 years ago | (#2186862)

if a doctor operating on me used one of these light sabres and screwed up, i'd never see another star wars movie again! but as long as they're called something else, I'll have no problem with star wars..

er, wait a second..

Just switch the name to (1)

Junior J. Junior III (192702) | about 13 years ago | (#2186863)

Light Sabre, and be done with it.

Can we get a price list? (2)

Elvis Maximus (193433) | about 13 years ago | (#2186864)

...injure the reputation which Lucasfilm has established for goods and services marketed under its Light Saber mark...

Services? Exactly what light saber services is Lucasfilm marketing?

I smell an innovative business model.


Re:It sort of makes sense (2)

garett_spencley (193892) | about 13 years ago | (#2186865)

but lucasarts does have the right to defend a trademark they have invested millions of dollars in.

Well it's more than just that. As someone else pointed out if Lucas did _not_ defend the trademark than that would give _anyone_ the legal right to abuse it.

Trademark law (as I understand it) says that you have to defend it yourself and you can't pick and choose if and when you defend it.

So if Lucas did not defend it this time then the next time if Lucas decided to defend it he would have a very poor case because he let this one slide.


Re:He has no choice. (1)

davonds (196851) | about 13 years ago | (#2186867)

Lucas has always vigorously slapped down anyone who even vaguely contravened one of his trademarks or copyrights. I don't know if it is him personally or his attorneys, but he is ruthless in this regard. If they had gone to him first, then he would have licensed them, but now he probably won't. Frankly I was always amazed he didn't go after Regan and his "Star Wars" project. Though I do believe that he has gone after GW for bringing it back up.

Pretty dumb for a doctor. (1)

satanami69 (209636) | about 13 years ago | (#2186869)

Did this Doctor actually think he would get away with calling his product a light saber? i remember a cool band that had to change it's name from green jello to jelly

Re:You know this aint so bad really. (1)

Vann_v2 (213760) | about 13 years ago | (#2186870)

CopyRIGHT laws have nothing to do with this. This is a matter of trademark law.

Typical Lucas (1)

wardomon (213812) | about 13 years ago | (#2186871)

Lucas Arts has a history of harrassing people. There's a guy at that makes add-on levels for UnrealTournament that has been threatened with a lawsuit. He does it because he like Star Wars, it's not like he's making any money.

Re:He has no choice. (1)

hearingaid (216439) | about 13 years ago | (#2186872)

crazy moderators.

first of all, SLi is right.

second of all, people should read my posts. [] from that post:

Trademark law isn't explicitly based on a use-it-or-lose-it theory. However, the theory it is based on is different. The above poster seems to have a decent grasp of the effects of the theory, but I should try my best to explicate the actual theory.

Basically, the idea is to prevent consumer confusion. The test is, if a consumer looking at the two products, thought they were either the same or in some way connected to the same source, then it's a trademark infringement. Look and feel can get involved in interesting ways.

For example, suppose I market a cola product. If its logo looks quite a lot like one of the Major Producers (but not totally identical - that gets me into copyright, and I'm fried anyway), I'm probably violating trademark law, because a consumer would likely be confused as to where the pop came from at the point of purchase. On the other hand, suppose I market a nacho chip bag with the same logo. I'm probably still violating trademark law, because a consumer would think the aforementioned Major Producer had branched out. But suppose I'm marketing a brand of tampons. Then, the odds become fairly high that the consumer will not be confused, and on I go.

(some stuff about Adobe and KIlustrator snipped)

Finally, as for the use-it-or-lose-it part of trademark law. This is more of a practical side of the law, rather than an actual legal principle. Basically, the problem is that if the ordinary consumer starts using a trademark as a generic term, then it loses its trademark value, legally. The most famous example is the word "thermos". This was originally a trademarked word, coined for a patented device, the vacuum bottle. The Thermos company used to keep battalions of lawyers around to sue stores to stop them from labelling the areas in their stores where they kept the vacuum bottles Thermos, but instead put up signs like Vacuum Bottles.

The short version of the story: They failed. Partly because they used patent protection to ensure that people thought that all vacuum bottles had the name Thermos on them. So, when the patents expired, people referred to all their competitors as thermos makers.

The same thing has probably happened to Xerox, but it hasn't been tested in a court so far as I know.

But, their vigorous suing did prolong the length of life of their trademark. By suing people to stop them from referring to their trademark in a generic way, they reduced the likelihood that courts would think that people actually were using it in a generic way.

The basic principle: Trademarks embody the value of commercial propaganda. The better your propaganda, the more valuable your trademark.

so there ya go. quit with this "I Must Sue Everyone Who Calls Anything By A Name Vaguely Similar To My Trademark Or I Will Lose My Rights" myth. it's wrong. if your lawyer says that to you, your lawyer is:

  1. lying to you
  2. probably hoping for more litigation fees
  3. in need of replacement

Re:merchandizing (1)

hearingaid (216439) | about 13 years ago | (#2186873)

he raked it in from the toys he sold.

I am unaware of lucasfilm getting involved in the medical supplies arena.

if you hear to the contrary, please let me know.

also, Star Wars made tons of money. it was released back in the '70s. back then, popular movies used to stay in theatres for months or years.

it was released in '77. I think the last time I saw it was '80.

F-150 (5)

nick_davison (217681) | about 13 years ago | (#2186874)

Imagine if this continued with other non medical product names being used for medical products? How would Ford react if someone started calling a penis prosthetic "the F-150"?

Apologies to the [majority of?] Ford F-150 buyers who DID buy an F-150 as a penis prostheic.

Isn't that a stupid name for a medial instrument? (3)

mike260 (224212) | about 13 years ago | (#2186875)

Imagine you're about to go in for major surgery and someone tells you the doctor's going to be using something called a light-saber. The mental image I get is of a guy standing about five feet away from me wielding a large white-hot laser sword, poking the tip around inside my chest. Is that really the image they want to project?

If these things take off, maybe they should make a new rule that you're not a true surgeon until you've constructed your own lightsaber.

Whew (1)

Bugmaster (227959) | about 13 years ago | (#2186876)

At least they haven't called it "BFG9000". The thought of that baby in the hands of my surgeon scares the crap out of me.

Highest percentage of lawyers (2)

Futurepower(tm) (228467) | about 13 years ago | (#2186877)

Of all the countries in the world, the U.S. has the highest percentage of lawyers.

We live in a tremendously litigious society... (4)

hillct (230132) | about 13 years ago | (#2186878)

Aparently LucasFilm isn't making enough money on 30 year old franchize, they have to go and sue a medical equipment maker for using the name 'Light Saber'.

Unbelievable. You'd think Lucasfilm would be honored that the words 'Light Saber' have infultrated so deeply into pop culture that a manufacturer of a completely serious preoduct would choose to refer to their product line using the mane of a ficticious weapon that appeared in several movies 30 years ago (and one more recently, but that interupts the flow of my rant on this subject).

Pathetic. I'm vary disappointed in LucasFilm for pursuing this issue at all. From a purely financial perspective, LucasFilm's Light Sabers are marketed to an entirely different demographic who would most likely be unaware of the existance of the medical instruments of the same name. LikewiseThe medical instrument manufacturer is is no way attempting to steal customers from LucasFilm by using the name, and if they were, I'd be truly frightened. I can see it now

Billy: I just got a Light Saber. It makes these neat noises and lights up, and only takes two AA batteries.

Joey: My daddy bought me a light saber too but mine has to be plugged into the wall bacause it's more powerful. It can cut through bone like butter. Wanna see?

Truly Frightning.


Re:Actually... (3)

beanyk (230597) | about 13 years ago | (#2186879)

Heh, I'd love to have seen this...especially since Lucas has got to be pushing 300lbs these days. ;)

Matters size so much? So sure are you, mmm?

Easy fix: (1)

acceleriter (231439) | about 13 years ago | (#2186880)

Life Sabre*

* The Life Sabre is not affiliated with LucasFilms, Star Wars, or any other butthead trademark holders. It should definitely not be confused with "Light Sabre," used in Star Wars. (insert >wink, wink, nudge, nudge< here)

Look out Blizzard! (1)

Hobobo (231526) | about 13 years ago | (#2186881)

Well, Blizzards next on the chopping block: Their Unique Elegant Blade from Diablo IIis named "Lightsabre." D'oh!

Who's suprised ? (2)

ltjohhed (231735) | about 13 years ago | (#2186882)

Only in America...

while (!tripple_multi_biljoneer) {
if (lost_court_proceeding)
lock(trademark, long_time);

Re:I am Taco of Slashdot (1)

Oswald (235719) | about 13 years ago | (#2186883)

Well, I sort of agree with you that Slashdot discussions frequently degenerate into an unsavory mixture of commie/anarchist/technocrat (did I mention logically inconsistent?) ravings, but in this case Michael's comments actually do go to the heart of the situation. One of the primary motivators behind trademark law was to prevent companies from misleading the public. In cases like this, where the connection between products is quite tenuous, it may be that there's no infringement.

Or maybe there is. Good thing we have courts.

Memo to George: (1)

Scryber (244784) | about 13 years ago | (#2186885)

More time fixing bad scripts.
Less time suing people.

So, what's a deficiency? (2)

fmaxwell (249001) | about 13 years ago | (#2186886)

"Any deficiencies or faults in the quality of the defendant's goods are likely to reflect negatively upon, tarnish and seriously injure the reputation which Lucasfilm has established for goods and services marketed under its Light Saber mark."

Does this mean that if the device fails to hack off patients' limbs when it is wielded that it is deficient and will hurt the reputation of Lucasfilm?

The doctor (1)

jsse (254124) | about 13 years ago | (#2186887)

must have been dressing like that [] .

Get a closer look (1)

jsse (254124) | about 13 years ago | (#2186888)

of this medical instrument [] .

Re:He has no choice. (1)

jsse (254124) | about 13 years ago | (#2186889)

Like this? []

Lucas vs. Lucas (1)

kireK (254264) | about 13 years ago | (#2186890)

Wonder when Lucas's lawyers will oops and sue Lucas for somthing?

typical in the trademark business... (2)

hyrdra (260687) | about 13 years ago | (#2186891)

This is typical Lucas Arts stuff. I recall watching a Dateline show or something about how the company has an entire department (rather large with 200 employees), of which is dedicated to trademark management of the Star Wars franchise. It turns out that the main profits in fact don't come from the original, unique work for which the trademark stands and is protected. Instead, it comes from lunch boxes, promotional contests, games fees, etc. This company actually has marketed its trademarks to a product level.

I would suspect the boys at Lucas Arts troll all kinds of media looking for suspect violations, or in their case, future customers.

Re:Lawsuits (1)

jezreel (261337) | about 13 years ago | (#2186892)

Yeah, thats like getting millions for suing McDonalds because their coffee was to hot...

Re:Lawsuits (1)

jezreel (261337) | about 13 years ago | (#2186893)

Thank you for that info. I have been misinformed.
Poor lady...

What ever happened to being happy? (3)

totallygeek (263191) | about 13 years ago | (#2186894)

If I had come up with an item used in a series of movies, and that item's name became so popular that it became part of everyday speach, I would be happy as a clam. Sounds almost like this company is making a tribute, and light sabers as a jedi's weapon was to be used for good.

Does Lucas want to the name just in case they really make a light saber?

The report is utterly bogus (5)

Zeinfeld (263942) | about 13 years ago | (#2186896)

Lucas is not suing Minrad, they are objecting to Minrad's application to stop anyone else calling the device a light sabre.

So all the weenies who are gibbering on about how evil Lucas is for defending his trademark have to ask why Minrad should have exclusive trademark rights to the name 'Light Sabre'.

The trademark categories are not definitive, an application in one category does not foreclose a dilution claim in another category. In this case I think Lucas's lawyers have very good case. Minrad want to trade on the name recognition that Lucas has created. If they want to do that presumably the greedy bastard lawyers at Lucas will be happy to license the light sabre trademark to the greedy bastards running Minrad.

Lucas is almost certainly not directing this as a personal vendetta. His trademark lawyers are simply doing their job.

Showing now, at a operating theatre near you (2)

WIAKywbfatw (307557) | about 13 years ago | (#2186898)

The scene: A surgeon, having being hastly called to the operaing theatre finds before him a hulking great mass.

The surgeon prepares himself for action; he is about to open the patient's guts. Cowled, hooded and cloaked, he looks a strange sight. Slowly but surely though, he activates his lightsaber and makes a long incision along the length of abdomen.

The stench of the the air released by the innards once exposed to the air is nauseating. The surgeon staggers visiblyh, unprepared for such a olefactory assault.

Surgeon: And I thought they smelled bad on the outside.

(Apologies to George Lucas, Harrison Ford and Star Wars fans everywhere. No tauntons were harmed in the narration of this story.)

Actually... (3)

BIGJIMSLATE (314762) | about 13 years ago | (#2186899)

...Lucas was weilding a lightsaber (Lightsaber and all variations are copyright LucasFilm LTD. All Rights reserved) in a fake "battle" with Star Wars Stunt Coordinator Nick Gillard in a pirate-like manner during the "Star Wars Connections" part of ComicCon.

Full report here (plaintext link for the goat paranoid): =1 1561

Heh, I'd love to have seen this...especially since Lucas has got to be pushing 300lbs these days. ;)

Re:Old news (1)

terrymr (316118) | about 13 years ago | (#2186900)

That would go right along with

2001-07-27 21:06:07 Gnutella exposes children to pornography ?! (yro,internet) (rejected)

Submitted about half a day before one of the "in-crowd" posted the same story.

A friend of mind asked the other day "Why does that TACO guy get the credit for all the good stories"

Should Sue Himself (5)

Guppy06 (410832) | about 13 years ago | (#2186903)

"Any deficiencies or faults in the quality of the defendant's goods are likely to reflect negatively upon, tarnish and seriously injure the reputation which Lucasfilm has established for goods and services marketed under its Light Saber mark. This confusion is likely to result in loss of revenues to Lucasfilm and damage to its reputation." That seems to describe Phantom Menace perfectly.

Re:Just switch the name to (1)

archen (447353) | about 13 years ago | (#2186905)

a company, maybe. But perhaps not a product. Take Back Orifice [] for instance.

Surgery Scene (1)

Registered Coward v2 (447531) | about 13 years ago | (#2186906)

Lucas, I am your doctor.

George Lucas gets away with another one on /. (2)

SilentChris (452960) | about 13 years ago | (#2186907)

Isn't it always funny how we completely and utterly rip on companies that procure ridiculous and insipid lawsuits, but if it has to do with Star Wars we on Slashdot let it go? Personally, I think that foot icon should be used for most of the Rambus articles on this site.

Oh, by the way, George Lucas is a total asshole. Sorry to let you guys know. Although, I'm sure Slashdot will be one of the first to tell the coming of Star Wars II.

Pop under? (2)

jeffy124 (453342) | about 13 years ago | (#2186908)

Perhaps /. should modify links to things like printer friendly format [] so that we dont end up enforcing pop-under ads like the x10 camera or the credit card thingy that pops under the original link.

Great! (1)

absurd_spork (454513) | about 13 years ago | (#2186909)

Then Minrad can have it proven in court that their brand new Light Saber is not a toy!

It sort of makes sense (4)

ColGraff (454761) | about 13 years ago | (#2186910)

After all, I think we can all agree that the reason this company is calling it's product the "Light Saber" is because Lucas already popularized the term. They're riding the marketing and name-recognition "coattails" of lucasarts' Light Saber in order to promote and increase name recognition for their own product. It may seem petty, but lucasarts does have the right to defend a trademark they have invested millions of dollars in.

USA Intellectual Property Laws: 5 monkeys, 1 hour.

merchandizing (1)

len_harms (455401) | about 13 years ago | (#2186912)

merchandizing where the REAL money from the movie is made. Lucas probley at first made VERY little from that movie. But he RAKED it in from the merchiandise because it was verrrrrry popular movie. Of course he is defending his names of product he has control over! If you came up with a reallllly cool product and it sold well wouldnt you want to defend your name for your product?

Help me remember the earlier light saber? (3)

p3bf (459005) | about 13 years ago | (#2186913)

Weren't there a few cheesy science-fiction movies that pre-dated Star Wars that used light sabers? I can't quite recall which, but I recall light saber duels where they were more pencil thin... something along the lines of Stella Star Crash [] ?

I believe Star Wars [] was 1977 and Star Crash [] was 1979, but I have a nagging memory I can't bring out into the open about one or more films predating Star Wars that used light sabers. (Parenthetically, I wonder when the script/story Copyright dates on both were, and if Star Crash had a light saber in the initial story or was it total rip off of Star Wars [which would make sense if you saw Star Crash]).

Can anyone old enough to qualify as Bantha fodder refresh my memory? Thanks.

p.s. I miss those Ray Harryhausen [] movies I saw when I was growing up. You were probably looking at Caroline Munro [] and forgot the rest of the movie.

Jar Jar (1)

nemof (470259) | about 13 years ago | (#2186917)

Do you think we could collectively take out a court injunction preventing George Lucas from using Jar Jar Binks for the purpose of merchandise, franchise or pivotal plot crux due to the psychic trauma incurred?

'Deficiencies or faults' (1)

kevgull (471032) | about 13 years ago | (#2186918)

I should think most people are already aware of a serious deficiency in Start Wars light-sabres, aren't they?

They don't actually exist!

I don't see how much more deficient you can actually get.

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