Storm Trooper Property Wars

George Lucas is the man behind the Star Wars films and as such he owns the rights to them. A lesser known fact is that Andrew Ainsworth was the costume designer behind the white stormtrooper helmets. So far so good each gets his due.

But who owns the designs for the stormtrooper costumes?

The British prop designer who created their famous white helmets and body armour is being sued by director George Lucas for £10m in a case starting at the high court tomorrow. Andrew Ainsworth was sued by the director’s company, Lucasfilm, after reproducing the outfits from the original moulds and selling them for up to £1,800 each. (The Force)

This would be fun in itself but the story gets even better:

Ainsworth is countersuing Lucasfilm for a share of the £6bn merchandising revenue generated since the first film in the series premiered in 1977.

So does the filmmaker own all aspects of the film? What rights do the set, costume, prop designers have? Naturally this could (and should?) all be resolved by contract but if there is no contract?

The fact that Ainsworth makes the helmets from the original moulds should not mean anything since the right to make copies does not follow the ownership of the moulds. However in the absence of a contract to resolve this question the fact that the designer was allowed (if he was?) to keep his moulds should weigh in his favor. What a lovely case – I can’t wait to hear what the courts decide.

More on this available at TimesOnline.

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