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George Lucas Wields Light Saber 139

Posted by michael
from the your-schwartz-is-as-big-as-mine dept.
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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George Lucas Wields Light Saber

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    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...
  • by Anonymous Coward
    One more to go and you've got it!
  • by Anonymous Coward
    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.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    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..
  • by mosch (204) on Saturday July 28, 2001 @10:15AM (#2186786) Homepage
    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.

    --

  • by CaseyB (1105) on Saturday July 28, 2001 @03:04PM (#2186787)
    it is a sabre that emits light.

    What makes this instrument a "sabre", as opposed to a knife, scalpel, sword, rapier, epee, scimitar, dagger, cutlass or stiletto? Do you really think they chose "sabre" at random from the list of dozens of synonyms? It's pretty obvious to me it was chosen because of the well known Star Wars light sabre.

  • "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 [slashdot.org], light sabres were being recalled because of faults, which caused minor burns and eye irritation.

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

    Kyle
  • "uh oh the light saber screwed up....massive complications....oh no the patient died! boy will George Lucas be pissed!" Yeah I think tarnishing the Star Wras name is the least of their concerns
  • Androids were being referred to as 'droids in printed Science Fiction at least as far back as the '60s, maybe longer, and Issac Asimov, writing as Paul French, had weapons in his books that were the same thing as lightsabers, though I can't remember what he called them (or the hero of the series), having read them well over thirty years ago.

    Curiousity having gotten the better of me I hopped on Google and tracked down the hero's name: David Starr, Space Ranger, known from the second book of the series on as Lucky Starr. (Corny, yes, but they were written around 1952)

  • If it weren't that Multiple Sclerosis is nothing to joke about I'd probably have posted something about "What do you want to be disabled by today?".

    Of course, software that you as much fight with as use is nothing like being *really* disabled.

    Although, speaking of being disabled, who would want to be operated on by a doctor using a saber? "Doctor Guillotine, I see you've switched to a smaller, more maneuverable blade."

  • If he doesn't defend against this, it can mean that his ENTIRE CLAIM on "light saber" is lost.

    And wouldn't it be a tragedy, if he didn't have the exclusive rights to put these two common English words together to describe a science fiction concept that was invented years before he ever made Star Wars?

    -
  • A strong enough mark captures the entire world. The top example of this is "Kodak" it is an arbitrary mark that has an incredible amount of distincitiveness. Everyone in the world knows their products. The key test is "Liklihood of confusion." If I saw a Kodak-brand hammer, I would probably conclude that Kodak was launching a line of tools for whatever reason. But what if they didn't?

    I was following your train of thought but was disappointed when you got to the end and didn't apply your reasoning to the topic at hand. There was no conclusion.

    Also, is a trademarked brand name the same as a trademarked product name? Your argument about Kodak might not apply to light sabers, since it's not a brand. Does the "reasonable person" standard apply here? Would a reasonable person think that Lucas Films had manufactured surgical equipment?
  • 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.)
  • You don't think of rotting corpses when you hear the words already? =)
  • 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."

  • 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.
    --
  • 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.
    --
  • 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.
  • "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...

  • What about when LucasFilms decide to create real lightsaber swords? Their trademark will be lost, they'll have to rename the damn thing or worse, not even make it and the hopes and dreams of every Star Wars geek is gonna get ruined. And all this just because some damn medical company wanted to infringe some damn copyright

  • Actually, the actual facts of the story are quite different from what many people think. There's a writeup at Everything [everything2.com] that gives a good summary: The actual facts behind the McDonald's coffee lawsuit [everything2.com].

  • You hear "Light Sabre", you think "Star Wars".
  • by hardaker (32597) on Saturday July 28, 2001 @05:34AM (#2186806) Homepage
    You'd hope that Lucas wouldn't have fallen.

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

  • by miahrogers (34176) on Saturday July 28, 2001 @07:28AM (#2186807) Homepage
    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.
  • by chill (34294) on Saturday July 28, 2001 @05:30AM (#2186808) Journal
    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
  • 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...)
    --
  • 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!
  • by interiot (50685) on Saturday July 28, 2001 @07:13AM (#2186811) Homepage
    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. [lucasfilm.com] website, at the Minrad [minrad.com] website, or anywhere else..

  • by RavinDave (58826) on Saturday July 28, 2001 @05:43AM (#2186812)
    They're gonna rename it The Butthead-Director Scalpel [wired.com].
  • anyone else notice that michael posted a link to a site [amazon.com] that has made the /. front page for some big patent issue [slashdot.org]
    --------
  • 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?

    Nope, I don't think that they should have a right to sue in that case, because it's the same thing. AIM is a strong trademark, given the installed base. Does that mean AOL should have the right to sue the Aim Recording Company, or Automated Information Management, or American Image Marketing? No. The AIM trademark, just like the LEGO trademark and the "light saber" trademark, is for a specific category. It prevents Apple Computer from harassing every orchard owner in the US (apart from basic common sense, which we all know is severely lacking in most of corporate America).

    Oh, and by the way, Lego Irrigation is the name of a company that makes irrigation systems valves and nozzles and such. For one example.

    -Todd
    ---
  • by signe (64498) on Saturday July 28, 2001 @06:04AM (#2186815) Homepage
    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.

    -Todd

    ---
  • 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. ;^)
  • 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?
  • 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. :)

    Runestar
  • 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...

    -J

  • by BlueUnderwear (73957) on Saturday July 28, 2001 @06:35AM (#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.

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Or Laser Saber?
  • He did sue the government over the Star Wars name, when the technology was first anounced, IIRC.
    Furthermore as others have pointed out, if he doesn't want to lose the copyright he has to defend it, it's not a matter of being a good or bad person.

  • 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.

    Class designation has essentially nothing to do with a trademark being applicable in more than one field. Trademarks have relative strength. This strength comes from the nature of the mark (arbitrary collections of letters that aren't "real" words like "Kodak" or "Exxon" or "Flikead" are stronger than real words like "Apple") and the distinctiveness of the mark (the better known the mark is, the stronger it is). The stronger the mark, the more of the world is commanded.

    A strong enough mark captures the entire world. The top example of this is "Kodak" it is an arbitrary mark that has an incredible amount of distincitiveness. Everyone in the world knows their products. The key test is "Liklihood of confusion." If I saw a Kodak-brand hammer, I would probably conclude that Kodak was launching a line of tools for whatever reason. But what if they didn't? Do you really think you could sell a Kodak-brand hammer (Class 8: Hand Tools) simply because the Eastman Kodak Company doesn't sell hand tools? I doubt you're looking for that much trouble. If you did, they would crush you. They would win. And they would be right. Why should you ride the coattails of a brand they've spent billions to build

    As for the Linux detergent, Linux is know to perhaps millions of people. In my opinion it is a distinctive mark. However, I know it as the kernel of an operating system. I doubt I'd confuse it with soap. However, Linux is a very distinctive word (at least in English) so an interference action might well have succeeded. Don't know. Perhaps Linus isn't protecting the mark? I hope that's not true because if he doesn't he might lose the rights to it.
  • "I was following your train of thought but was disappointed when you got to the end and didn't apply your reasoning to the topic at hand. There was no conclusion."

    Sorry about that. I was in rant mode and forgot. But my primary point was about TM law, not the facts of this case.

    Also, is a trademarked brand name the same as a trademarked product name? Your argument about Kodak might not apply to light sabers, since it's not a brand. Does the "reasonable person" standard apply here? Would a reasonable person think that Lucas Films had manufactured surgical equipment?

    I'm not sure I follow what you mean by brand / product names. Let's see if this clears it up: In trademarks, "brand" is not synonymous with "manufacturer." Sticking with the Eastman Kodak Company, "Kodak" is a trademark that is synonymous with the manufacturer. Another of Eastman Kodak's trademarks is "Advantix." Advantix is not a product. It is a brand name used for Kodak's APS photography products. It is used on both film and cameras. An actual roll of APS film would have both Kodak and Advantix trademarks on it. But the underlying product is film. "Film" can not be trademarked as a name for film.

    As applied to the light saber thing, Lucasfilm is the company, "light saber" is the brand, and "toy" is the product. Note, there could obviously be more than one product called "light sabre" so the question is: Is "light saber" a strong mark or a weak one?

    "Light" and "saber" are real words. The phrase "light saber" is very suggestive of the idea. That's bad for Lucas. However, they've spent millions promoting the whole Star Wars / Jedi / light saber thing. That tends to make the mark stronger.

    Personally, I think "light saber" is distinctive in that when I hear it, I think Star Wars. However, I don't think it is so distinctive as to preclude the use in other ways. The "likelihood" of confusion test seems a bit of a stretch for Lucas. As you imply, who would think that Lucasfilm was manufacturing surgical equipment?

    OTOH, imagine that the name had been given to surgical equipment that consisted of advanced VR imaging hardware. That starts to sound like a special effect and not so much of a stretch. Could be an ILM product.

    I think Lucasfilm may have over-reacted (which they are famous for) but I think the medical equipment people should have asked. They probably thought of it as a tribute of some kind but that isn't always taken that way. (Remember Apple's "Sagan" / "BHA" code names?) Do I think they'll win? Don't know. They have a lot of lawyers though who are zealous in protecting their billion dollar empire.
  • They could pull an Apple and call it the "butthead director," or they could avoid beating around the bush and call it a "laser self-important ego deflator."

    -Legion

  • 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)?

    -j
    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....

  • Heh. Yeah. Voyager had its low points. I was actually expressing woe at a general lack of Star Trek.

    -j
  • This already happened.
    Ford Fiesta (car)
    Fiesta Ferrero (chocolate cake)
  • 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.
  • ... but it is a well known fact that you have to defend every little attack on your trademarks, or else possibly rights to them as the term becomes diluted by public use. the legal system forces overzealous protection of trademarks, basically.
  • Realizing that they called them "light sabers" and not "something else" sabers is why George is going after them but a search on google [google.com] 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 [parksabers.com]
  • (science,patents)? This is a trademark, not a patent. That could have something to do with it.

    The only "intuitive" interface is the nipple. After that, it's all learned.
  • 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.
  • 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,

  • 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!

    Jeremy

  • That is the general way trademarks work. Defend vigirously to prevent dilution or you lose the trademark. While I do not know exact circumstances and all I know that is the general idea behind a trademark.

    Jeremy

  • 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 [lego.com] 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.
  • Nope, I don't think that they should have a right to sue in that case, because it's the same thing. AIM is a strong trademark, given the installed base. Does that mean AOL should have the right to sue the Aim Recording Company

    No. AIM isn't that strong. Such strengths are generally reserved for trademarks such as AMERICA ONLINE®, WARNER BROS.®, NINTENDO®, POKEMON®, MICROSOFT®, DISNEY®, STAR WARS®, and other marks along those lines where use of a trademark by a company in a related field would be considered endorsement of the new business by the existing TM owner. For example, Israel's Supreme Court overturned a registration for "BAKARDI" brand jeans [ladas.com] because it was too similar to BACARDI® brand liquor. The Republic of China, based on the island Taiwan, also has a law about famous trademarks [commitment.com.tw]. And here's some information about the Federal Trademark Dilution Act of 1995 [mycounsel.com], which sets guidelines for protection of famous trademarks in the U.S.

    But remember Tetrisgate [slashdot.org]? The Tetris Company [tetris.com] was found not to have a copyright or patent on the game of falling tetraminoes but merely a trademark on TETRIS® [everything2.com]; the cloners simply changed the names of their games [misunderestimated.net], all of which had been clean-room from the start. Nevertheless, the findings didn't stop a quality control consulting firm based out of Edmonton, Alberta, from calling itself Tetris Management Group [eon.net]. Guess the TETRIS trademark isn't that strong in Canada.

    Government-granted monopolies[?] [everything2.com] are easiest to deal with when problems are solved before they escalate; that's why trademark law (unlike US copyright and patent law) requires TM owners to react in a speedy manner, that is, either license or sue would-be infringers.

    Oh, and by the way, according to Lego^H^H^H^H Elgo Irrigation [lego-elgo.co.il]'s web site, there was a recent name change.

  • 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...
  • 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
  • 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...
  • "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! "

    Now I know why I had Michael's news posts filtered out. DOH! Time to recheck that checkbox.
  • 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...
  • 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.

  • by locutus074 (137331) on Saturday July 28, 2001 @06:12AM (#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 [uspto.gov] on Linux (TM) laundry detergent [slashdot.org]. The different classes for which trademarks are defined [uspto.gov] are on the USPTO's web site [uspto.gov].

    --

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Well, they don't have a category for trademarks. This was the closest I could find. Anyway, if they thought a different category would better suit it, why couldn't they change the category?

    Edward Burr
  • by egburr (141740) on Saturday July 28, 2001 @07:09AM (#2186851) Homepage
    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

  • Silly!

    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.

    DanH
    Cav Pilot's Reference Page [cavalrypilot.com]
  • 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.

    --
  • by Frizzle Fry (149026) on Saturday July 28, 2001 @08:11AM (#2186854) Homepage
    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?

    --
  • 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. :)
  • people associate the term "light saber" with "highly dangerous medical instrument and associated cover-up scandal"

    Ahh. Pinheads with an IQ hovering near room temperature would indeed have trouble distinguishing the two. That's why all of us must give up our rights to freely use these important terms in ways other than their creators (or at least first-to-the-trademark-office-holders) intend, because we might distress and mislead the imbeciles of the world. And who knows what might happen to the U.S. economy if George Lucas couldn't sell another fucking movie ticket!!!!

  • 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.

  • 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.
  • 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 is clear to me that if Lucas had not have invented the term "Light Saber" in his Star Wars realm, the medical company developing a surgical instrument would undoubtedly have used a different moniker for their device. "Light Saber" has become a term easily reminds most people of Star Wars, which is a very popular and well-liked series of movies, books, etc.

    In the business of laser surgery, I would imagine that it is important to create an atmosphere of comfort for the patient and a familiar term would do that. If not for Star Wars' popularity, I don't believe the name would have been applied. I wonder if the same company would name their steel scaple line after famous swords. "Doctor, would you like the Scimitar?" "No, nurse, I'll think I'll use the Rapier on this uterous."

    But Lucas may not be unfounded in his worry about protecting his trademark. What if another manufacturer uses the term Light Saber on a product that is not as distant from his own product line as medical equipment. The more products that are allowed to exist commercially with the name "Light Saber," the more difficulty Lucas will have in defending against those who would capitalize on his good will. He may one day have to market "Light Saber brand light sabers" like a popular band aid.

  • 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..
  • ...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.

    -

  • 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.

    --
    Garett

  • by nick_davison (217681) on Saturday July 28, 2001 @10:42AM (#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.

  • by mike260 (224212) on Saturday July 28, 2001 @08:01AM (#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.

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

    --CTH
  • by beanyk (230597) on Saturday July 28, 2001 @09:47AM (#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?
  • Only in America...

    while (!tripple_multi_biljoneer) {
    recount();
    whine();
    sue();
    if (lost_court_proceeding)
    lock(trademark, long_time);
    }
  • "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?

  • 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.
  • 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?

  • You are LYING to us. Please mod the parent down.

    The report quoted states that Minrad applied for the trademark. Another slashdotter checked the PTO site to find the Minrad application and the Lucas trademark grants.

    But no, the sensationalist coverage in Yahoo has to be definitive, even though as you yourself quote it as saying:

    when it asked permission from the government to call its new group of tools Light Sabers

    This is the US, not the USSR, you don't ask permission from the government to name your product, you ask permission to stop other people using your name

    Do you really think the court records of a district court are bogus? I don't believe you

    You gibber on about checking facts and then on the basis of an idiot reporting in Yahoo claim that your equally dim witted opinion is backed by court records you have not read. You are not by any chance a relative of Jeffrey Archer? Somehow you don't seem to be practising what you preach.

  • by Zeinfeld (263942) on Saturday July 28, 2001 @06:27AM (#2186896) Homepage
    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.

  • 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.)

  • by BIGJIMSLATE (314762) on Saturday July 28, 2001 @05:33AM (#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):
    http://cgi.theforce.net/theforce/tfn.cgi?storyID =1 1561

    Heh, I'd love to have seen this...especially since Lucas has got to be pushing 300lbs these days. ;)
  • by Guppy06 (410832) on Saturday July 28, 2001 @06:21AM (#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.
  • 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.

  • Perhaps /. should modify links to things like printer friendly format [yahoo.com] 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.
  • by ColGraff (454761) <maron1&mindspring,com> on Saturday July 28, 2001 @05:35AM (#2186910) Homepage Journal
    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.
  • by p3bf (459005) on Saturday July 28, 2001 @07:28AM (#2186913) Homepage

    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 [globalserve.net]?

    I believe Star Wars [imdb.com] was 1977 and Star Crash [imdb.com] 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 [imdb.com] movies I saw when I was growing up. You were probably looking at Caroline Munro [imdb.com] and forgot the rest of the movie.

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