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It has been a busy week in the world of litigation with the court releasing several key decisions ahead of the summer break.
On Wednesday the Supreme Court decided that arbitrators are not employees (read more); Star Wars stormtrooper helmets are not sculptures (read more); a 200-year-old law can still be applied to modern financial instruments (read more); and that the Department of Work & Pensions (DWP) has cocked up pensions legislation and must redraft it (read more).
The Star Wars showdown between prop designer Andrew Ainsowrth and movie mogul George Lucas is the stuff that films are made of. Lucasfilm had been trying since 2004 to convince the courts both at home and in the US that Ainsworth had breached copyright when he had attempted to sell stormtrooper helmets on the open market.
Originally, the US court upheld the claim but as the defendant held no assets in the US Lucasfilm was forced to pursue him in the UK. Both the High Court and Court of Appeal upheld the defence and at the Supreme Court Lucasfilm brought in the big guns. Brick Court’s Jonathan Sumption QC, who will head to the Supreme Court as a judge next year, was instructed to lead the advocacy (5 January).
But even with Sumption onside and support of movie giants Steven Spielberg, James Cameron, Peter Jackson and Brian Henson, son of Jim Henson, Lucasfilm couldn’t convince the court to back him.
It may not have been an outright victory for the defendant with the court finding that a defendant domiciled in England can be sued here for acts in the US that amount to infringement of copyright under US law.
Lucas may also take solace in the fact that the High Court is playing its part in helping to crack down on the movie pirates, granting an injunction to a handful of Hollywood studios forcing British Telecom to stop its internet users from accessing a website that infringes copyright (28 July).