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WickedLasers Spyder III Pro Arctic Laser   (Source: WickedLasers)

George Lucas has demanded Wicked Lasers stop producing their device or face a lawsuit. Our advice to them -- watch out for the Rancor pit!  (Source: LucasFilm)
Lucas says there's only room for one jedi lightsaber in town; Wicked Lasers says claims are ridiculous

Early last month we covered Hong Kong-based Wicked Laser's new Spyder III Pro Arctic laser, a 1-watt beast capable of setting people's skin on fire and causing blindness.  In that article we compared the laser to a "lightsaber", as a humorous pop culture reference.  After all, the design looked much like the iconic Star Wars weapon.

George Lucas, creator of Star Wars, noticed that similarity, too, and now has threatened Wicked Lasers to change their design or prepare to be sued.  Lucas's firm Lucasfilm Ltd. sent a cease-and-desist letter to the company threatening legal action if the conditions are not accepted.  Lucasfilm states, "It is apparent from the design of the Pro Arctic Laser that it was intended to resemble the hilts of our lightsaber swords, which are protected by copyright..."

The letter says that much like the fictional lightsabers, the Wicked Lasers can prove a dangerous weapon.  It writes that they are "a highly dangerous product with the potential to cause blindness, burns and other damage to people and/or property."

Steve Liu, CEO of Wicked Lasers, says his 7-year-old firm has many lasers that look like the Spyder III and that the design was not meant to copy Star Wars.  He states, "Most people feel it's kind of ridiculous... We would never use any comparison like that to 'Star Wars' or a lightsaber or anything like that."

Much like Luke Skywalker facing down Jabba the Hutt, Liu boldly proclaims that Lucas is making a big error with his legal threats.  He states, "Lucasfilm shouldn't be saying something like that.  They're a big company that needs to protect their trademarks. Maybe they're having to look like they're protecting their trademark in case they need to [protect it again] later."

While we think this suit is relatively silly (most laser pointers look somewhat lightsaber-like), it is hard to deny that the look of the Pro Arctic is remarkably similar to a Star Wars universe lightsaber.

In response to the demand and safety concerns, Wicked Lasers has made some modifications to the devices before it ships them to customers.  It has added the following:
1) Adjustable Power Mode : Low power and high power modes are now selectable. Laser's default power mode is low power mode.

2) Adjustable Wave Mode
: Pulse mode and constant wave modes are now selectable. Laser's default wave mode is pulse mode.

3) Secure Lock/Unlock Mode : The laser can now be locked and unlocked electronically to prevent unauthorized usage. Laser's default secure mode is locked mode.

4) Training Lens : A replaceable training lens will be installed on each laser that reduces the power output by 80% to prevent accidents for new users. Once training is completed, user may replace the training lens with the included standard lens for maximum power.
Perhaps those modifications will help keep overzealous users from burning themselves or others.

As to the Lucas mess, the letter gave Wicked Lasers five days to promise changes, and it seems the company is unwilling to comply.  Thus it seems likely that Lucasfilm will sue it.  Liu, though, says he hopes that it won't come to that.  We're guessing George Lucas is searching for a good Sarlacc pit to throw them in now, as we write this.

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By theinnkeeper on 7/7/2010 12:37:55 PM , Rating: 2
If I were to create a real-life lightsaber, one that works just like his fake ones did in the movie, would I be sued? I know it's not going to happen, but it made me wonder. Does his trademark on a toy, an idea maybe, preclude making a real one?

RE: question
By Hydrofirex on 7/7/2010 2:00:55 PM , Rating: 2
Legitmate question - so if someone makes a tri-corder type device could they get sued? What about flip phones al la the original series communicators? If someone actually makes a hover-board are the writers from Back to the Future going to sue? If someone makes a bi-pedal robot with an effeminate voice is this going to be another Lucas lawsuite?

If someone can actually make a light sword that functions exactly like the ones in Star Wars I think it should be protected as long as they don't call it a "Light Saber". Lucas can certainly patent his FICTIONAL implementation of this theorhetorical technology, but he should have no right to bar actual technologists from, even if drawing obvious inspiration from his source material, creating an ACTUAL technology or product.


RE: question
By The Raven on 7/7/2010 2:22:21 PM , Rating: 2
Conclusion...IP law is fubar ;-)

RE: question
By HotFoot on 7/7/2010 4:04:54 PM , Rating: 2
The intent of IP law is supposed to be to encourage development and creativity. Inventors having rights over their ideas is merely a mechanism to that end, and not some innate natural law. The natural way would be monkey-see-monkey-do.

Currently I think the laws lean too far towards the inventor/creator holding rights on works. Studies have shown that patents and copyrights could expire much earlier and not hinder investment in development. I think many people have decided that by inventing something it belongs to you for evermore - but it doesn't, and it shouldn't.

RE: question
By HotFoot on 7/7/2010 3:59:45 PM , Rating: 2
Well, I suppose you could call it anything other than "Lightsabre" and you'd be fine. The trademark should be expired by the time the real device is invented, should that ever happen, so maybe the real thing could be called a Lightsabre after all.

RE: question
By tmouse on 7/9/2010 8:17:13 AM , Rating: 2
I have to agree this is total BS. He has a TRADEMARK on the TERM "lightsaber", that's all. SO no one could make a hand held laser device and CALL it a lightsaber. He does not have a PATENT. I have no idea what grounds he would have, smells frivolous at best, I think he just misses the limelight and this is a way to get some "page time".

RE: question
By xane on 7/13/2010 1:44:47 PM , Rating: 2
No... I'm not a lawyer but I think GL just has the appearance of a light saber as seen in Star Wars copyrighted. To protect a REAL invention, you need a patent--not a copyright. Copyrights protect names/works of art. Lucas just doesn't like that it LOOKS like one seen in Star Wars.

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