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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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RE: Let him sue
By Fritzr on 7/8/2010 11:13:55 AM , Rating: 2
Not quite.

Arthur C. Clarke invented the geostationary comsat which made any future attempt to patent the idea invalid. He never built the hardware, just documented it in his science fiction stories.

Robert Heinlein clearly described the design and function of the hydraulic hospital bed in the book Stranger in a Strange Land. This prior art was used to invalidate the patent claim for the "water bed".

Fiction can trump reality in IP law. However the trademark & appearance issues can be extremely controversial with or without fictional versions.

Lucas is basically claiming copyright infringement by using a design close enough to his to be mistaken for the Star Wars device as marketed by licensed companies and for having his trademark applied to an unlicensed device. Bayer lost that battle and now real Asprin is called Bayer Asprin to diffentiate it from the competition that uses the Bayer trademark without permission.

Saran has been fighting this battle for many years ro prevent the trademark "Saran Wrap" from being a generic term for plastic cling wrap. Glad also ran into this when they tried to make "Glad Wrap" the default request for plastic cling wrap. If they had succeeded, they could have lost their trademark status.

Even Coca-Cola has to file token complaints to prevent the colloquial usage of Coke to mean whatever cola is on tap canceling their trademark.


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