Star Wars Storm Troopers, the Next Episode: Lucasfilm in the United Kingdom Supreme Court
Intellectual Property Journal, Vol. 24, No. 1, pp. 15-28, December 2011
Posted: 22 Jan 2012
Date Written: December 1, 2011
George Lucas's production company brought an action in England against an English resident (Ainsworth) and his company, who sold plastic replicas of Star Wars Imperial Storm Trooper helmets and armour over the Internet. Lucasfilm had initially sued Ainsworth in US District Court in California for copyright and trademark infringement in respect of his sales to customers in the US. Ainsworth, after his attorneys unsuccessfully challenged the court's jurisdiction, did not defend. Lucasfilm brought the present action in England, claiming inter alia to enforce the US judgment or, alternatively, to recover damages for infringement of US copyright law. The Court of Appeal held the US judgment could not be enforced in England, and that the English court lacked subject matter jurisdiction to entertain an action for infringement of a foreign copyright.The United Kingdom Supreme Court reversed the latter decision, holding that where foreign intellectual property rights do not depend on the state of a foreign registry, they are justiciable by an English court. Canadian courts have not had occasion to consider the question of subject matter jurisdiction in claims involving foreign intellectual property rights. When they do, the Lucasfilm case is likely to be highly persuasive in negating any general bar to such claims.
Keywords: Conflict of laws, Intellectual property, Subject matter jurisdiction, Copyright infringement
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