British designer wins battle of Star Wars helmet

27th July 2011, Comments 0 comments

A British prop designer on Wednesday struck back against the Star Wars empire, winning a court battle against US film company boss George Lucas over his right to sell replica Stormtrooper helmets.

Lawyers for Andrew Ainsworth, who helped make the original helmets for the white-clad soldiers of the evil galactic empire in the film series, successfully argued at England's highest court that he could sell the replicas in Britain.

The Supreme Court judges upheld a 2009 ruling from a lower court that said the helmets were functional and not artistic works, and so not subject to full copyright laws.

They dismissed arguments from lawyers for Lucas' studio Lucasfilm, which made the Star Wars movies, that Ainsworth, who manufactures the helmets in his south London studio, needed a licence to sell them in Britain.

However, the judges ruled that the director's copyright had been infringed in the US by the 62-year-old designer selling his work there, paving the way for proceedings to be brought in England over the alleged breaches.

"If there is a Force, then it has been with me these past five years," said Ainsworth after the ruling, in a jokey reference to one of the Star Wars films' best known lines, "May the Force be with you".

"I am proud to report that in the English legal system David can prevail against Goliath if his cause is right," he said.

Lucasfilm first attempted to take action against Ainsworth in the United States but the battle moved to Britain in 2008, where it moved through lower courts and finally reached the Supreme Court.

In a statement after Wednesday's ruling, Lucasfilm criticised an "anomaly" of British copyright law which meant that props made for use in films "may not be entitled to copyright protection in the UK."

"Lucasfilm remains committed to aggressively protecting its intellectual property rights relating to Star Wars in the UK and around the globe through any and all means available to it," it added.

© 2011 AFP

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