Litigation

Jury Verdict Round-Up: Top 5 Star Wars Verdicts and Settlements

With the new Star Wars film set to release, the fan frenzy is about to kick into hyperdrive and the attorney editors on the Jury Verdict team are ready to geek out with the rest of the world. In the spirit of the upcoming release, we decided to search our database for jury verdicts and settlements that have a Star Wars connection.  We came up with the following list of cases from Lexis editors as well as our licensing partners. So kick back at the Star Wars Cantina and pull up a bar stool while you peruse our list.

On a more serious note, if you are interested in submitting one of your own notable verdicts to be included in our Non-Star Wars collection, we’d be happy to include a report in our database. You can just send us an email at this address: juryverdictsubmissions@lexisnexis.com

1)       Life-Sized C3PO Sign Costs Food Distributor $ 158,175 in Trip And Fall Lawsuit: Wilda Wisdom vs. Aramark Foods; 2000 Jury Verdicts LEXIS 60403

Licensing partner ALM Media Properties, LLC provided us with the case of Wilda Wisdom, a 63-year-old woman who was visiting her husband at the hospital. While in the hospital cafeteria, she tripped over a six ft. Lays Potato Chip sign in the shape of the character 3CPO from the Star Wars films. In October of 2000, a unanimous Texas state jury found comparative fault on both parties, apportioning 95% of the negligence to Aramark and 5% to Wisdom. With a total award of $166,500, Wisdom took home $158,175 after reduction for comparative fault.

2)   Unauthorized Lightsaber Seller Pays $250,000 to Settle Infringement Action: Lucasfilm Ltd., et al. v. William Osburn; 2007 Mealey's CA Jury Verdicts & Settlements 296

Lucasfilm Ltd. and Lucasfilm Entertainment Co. Ltd. sued William Osburn, doing business as High-Tech Magic, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California on Nov. 28, 2006, alleging that Osburn engaged in the unauthorized use of Lucasfilm's trademarks and trade dress to promote, advertise and sell his own version of Lucasfilm's Star Wars Lightsaber swords. Lucasfilm is the producer of the Star Wars film series and owns numerous U.S. trademark registrations covering role-playing toys and toy weapons. Lucasfilm claimed that Osburn's Web site, www.High-TechMagic.com, repeatedly displayed the trademarks Star Wars, Jedi, The Force and Lightsaber in connection with the sale of unauthorized infringing products.

Osburn and Lucasfilm entered into a settlement agreement on Dec. 18, 2006. Sources told Mealey Publications that a permanent injunction enjoined Osburn from using Lucasfilm's trademarks or trade dress in connection with advertising, offering for sale or selling Lightsaber swords. Additionally, the injunction enjoined Osburn from advertising, offering for sale or selling any lighted or glowing swords. The injunction further required Osburn to make all infringing merchandise available for inspection within 10 days and provide for the destruction of all infringing merchandise within 20 days.

3)   Lucasfilm Ltd. Recovers $20 Million In Copyright Action Against Seller of Unauthorized Stormtrooper Helmets: Lucasfilm Ltd. v. Shepperton Design Studios Ltd; 2006 Mealey's CA Jury Verdicts & Settlements 1167

Lucasfilm Ltd. owns and controls all intellectual property associated with the Star Wars film franchise. The defendant, a U.K. corporation, was accused of and ultimately deemed liable for marketing copies of Stormtrooper helmets and costumes, as well as TIE fighter pilot helmets, from the Star Wars films in violation of copyright and trademark laws, in addition to making false representations about the authenticity and origin of the items.

Although the defendant initially appeared in the action - by filing a stipulation to extend the time for a response to Lucasfilm's complaint, as well as a dismissal motion - Shepperton ultimately failed to answer the charges levied against it, resulting in entry of default judgment by U.S. District Judge Klausner. The District Court additionally awarded Lucasfilm a permanent injunction. Ultimately, a $20 million judgment was entered in favor of plaintiff, including $5 million for copyright infringement, $5 million for unfair competition, and $10 million for trademark infringement.

4)   U.S. District Court Judge Denied Lucasfilm Ltd.’s Motion for Preliminary Injunction, Dissolving Temporary Restraining Order Prohibiting Distribution of Animated Erotic Parody, Starballz: Lucasfilm, Ltd. and Lucas Licensing, Ltd. V. Media Market Group, Ltd; 2002 Jury Verdicts LEXIS 55252

Licensing Partner ALM Media Properties, LLC provided this next case involving Lucasfilm, Ltd. and defendant Media Market Group Ltd (MMG). In this action, Lucasfilm objected to defendant’s movie -- called " Starballz" -- claiming that the film was a derivative work that tarnished the Star Wars franchise and constituted trademark and copyright violations. Defendant, however, maintained the position that Starballz was a bonafide parody that would be protected from censorship by the First Amendment and section 107 of the Copyright Act. U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken agreed with defendant, denying preliminary injunctive relief to Lucasfilm.

5)     Two for One – Auto Accident Collision Cases Involving “The Force”

We couldn’t leave out either of these cases where Star Wars played a part in automobile collisions. In the first one (from the Indiana Jury Verdict Reporter), a father was driving his 6-year-old son to see a Star Wars film. A rear end collision resulted in a $13,500 verdict in the dad’s favor.  Urcheck v. Kerr;  2001 IN Jury Verdicts Rptr. LEXIS 984. In the second case (from National Jury Verdict Review & Analysis), a broadside collision at a red light resulted in a $ 119,672 verdict for the plaintiff. Although Star Wars had nothing to do with causation, it provided a factor in the damages claim. Plaintiff asserted the loss of normal life because he was an avid Star Wars fan and was no longer able to dress up as a Star Wars Trooper for various events. EDWARD PEKIN vs. VITO PARISE; 2008 Nat. Jury Verdict Review LEXIS 1269.

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