Trademark letter forces Toronto lightsaber battles to stop referencing Star Wars
Trademark protection letter forces Toronto company Newmindspace to stop referencing Star Wars in its events.
|Report an Error|
Share via Email
The “force” won’t be with Toronto’s lightsaber duellers any longer. Nor will the “Jedi,” the “Sith” or any other trademarked Star Wars phrases.
The event’s organizers dropped all references to the beloved sci-fi franchise after receiving a cease-and-desist letter from Lucasfilm’s lawyers, they said on Thursday.
Newmindspace, the organization behind the popular lightsaber battles in Toronto and cities across the U.S., got the stern letter shortly after attempting to set a record for the world’s largest lightsaber battle, company co-founder Kevin Bracken said.
Neither Lucasfilm nor the Californian law firm representing the film company responded to requests for comment.
Bracken, who started Newmindspace with Lori Kufner after they met on the Queen streetcar in 2005 on the way to a rave, says the threat of a multimillion-dollar lawsuit kept him up at night.
“I’m just getting used to not feeling anxious again,” he said in an interview. “A lawsuit from anyone can really ruin your life.”
They reached a settlement with Lucasfilm recently, he said. They not only agreed to ditch the phrase “Light Sabers,” but also more generic expressions such as “Light Swords” and “Light Battles.”
Bracken and Kufner have hosted lightsaber playfights in six cities across the U.S. and Canada, including Toronto, New York and Los Angeles, over the past eight years. They say a dollar from the proceeds of each reservation goes to the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Overall, they claim to have raised over $2,500 for the kids’ charity. Newmindspace has also organized mass pillow fights, bubble battles and capture-the-flag games.
To avoid being sued by Lucasfilm, they rebranded the lightsaber events as the “Cats in Space Tour.”
“Our goal was to make something that was very fun, very silly, and very obviously not related to Star Wars,” Bracken said. For good measure, they changed their website’s background to a picture of two tabbies duking it out in outer space wearing fishbowl astronaut helmets.
With so many trademarks, it’s difficult not to run afoul of Lucasfilm or Disney, Bracken noted. (Disney bought Lucasfilm Ltd. from its chairman and founder, George Lucas, in 2012 for $4.05 billion.)
Lucasfilm has 127 active trademarks registered with the Canadian Intellectual Property Office, including “Lando Calrissian,” “hyperspace” and “rogue leader.” They filed a claim to “Light Saber” in August 1977, the summer the first movie in the original Star Wars trilogy opened in theatres.
Some legal experts say Lucasfilm was entirely within its rights to police its valuable brand in this case.
“They have no choice,” said intellectual property lawyer Toba Cooper, of the firm Shift Law, in downtown Toronto. “If they allow this event to use lightsaber and another event comes out and does the same, they have no foothold.”
However, she was surprised to see the film and TV production giant stake a claim to more general phrases like “Light Sword” and “Light Battle” in their agreement with Newmindspace, since intellectual property protection doesn’t cover ideas.
“But that said . . . when you’re up against big corporations you have to do what seems right with the threat of potential litigation looming.”
Even after facing the wrath of Lucasfilm, Bracken says he isn’t any less of a Star Wars fan. But it would have been a different story had the dispute gone to court.
“If we actually did get to the lawsuit stage, it would have retroactively ruined my childhood,” he said.
More on Metronews.ca