Lucasfilm Ltd and others v Ainsworth and Another: ChD 31 Jul 2008

The parties disputed ownership of the designs for various props used in the Star Wars films. The defendant had developed designs from ideas originating within the claimant’s companies.
Held: The judgment from the US in a similar claim was unenforceable here. No copyright existed in the helmet, since it was not a work of sculpture and Mr Ainsworth had defences (to a claim that he was reproducing the clamant’s works) under sections 51 and 52 of the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988. Any other intellectual property rights did vest in the claimant.
The court set out guidelines (not requirements) as to the meaning of sculpture; normal English usage is important, though not determinative, artistic merit is not in issue, but artistic purpose is; and not every three dimensional work is a sculpture.
Mann J said: ‘One of the most abiding images in the film was that of the Imperial Stormtroopers. These were soldiers clad in white armour, including a white helmet which left no part of the face uncovered . . The purpose of the helmet was that it was to be worn as an item of costume in a film, to identify a character, but in addition to portray something about that character – its allegiance, force, menace, purpose and, to some extent, probably its anonymity. It was a mixture of costume and prop.’
Mann J
[2008] EWHC 1878 (Ch), (2008) 78 IPR 145, [2008] ECDR 17, [2009] FSR 2
Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988 4 51 52
England and Wales
CitedDavis (J and S) Holdings v Wright Health Group ChD 1988
The parties disputed the status in intellectual property law of a model of a dental impression tray. A cast was prepared from the model, and a final form prepared from the cast. The author, a professor, made a mock-up of materials but then drew from . .

Cited by:
Appeal fromLucasfilm Ltd and Others v Ainsworth and Another CA 16-Dec-2009
The claimants had made several Star Wars films for which the defendants had designed various props items. The parties disputed ownership of the rights in the designs, and in articular of a stormtrooper helmet. The issues came down to whether the . .
At ChDLucasfilm Ltd and Others v Ainsworth and Another SC 27-Jul-2011
The claimant had produced the Star War films which made use of props, in particular a ‘Stormtrooper’ helmet designed by the defendant. The defendant had then himself distributed models of the designs he had created. The appellant obtained judgment . .

These lists may be incomplete.
Updated: 09 February 2021; Ref: scu.271301