TW unit hit with infringment charge, more to come

Lucasfilm Ltd. filed suit Monday against Time Warner unit Little, Brown & Co., charging that the publisher’s “The Unauthorized Star Wars Compendium” infringes on Lucasfilm’s “Star Wars” trademark.

Entertainment attorney Bert Fields, who’s representing Lucasfilm, told Daily Variety that the suit kicks off a massive campaign “to stamp out” alleged infringements in anticipation of the release of “Star Wars: Episode I the Phantom Menace.”

“We are assembling a team to move ahead in every country and with every remedy we have available to us,” Fields said, citing such pirated items as “Star Wars” videos, toys and even T-shirts as merchandise being targeted for litigation.

Although the lawyer expects most actions to be filed in civil court, he said, “Whenever criminal sanctions are appropriate, we’ll seek those as well.”

The suit, filed in Los Angeles federal court, where it has been assigned to Judge Edward Rafeedie, caught New York-based Little, Brown by surprise.

Publisher confident

Publisher Sarah Crichton, after admitting she learned of the action from a reporter’s phone call, said she still hadn’t seen the complaint but expressed confidence that TW’s “Star Wars Compendium,” written by Ted Edwards, would be deemed aboveboard.

Referring to TW legal counsel Heather Kilpatrick, Crichton said: “She has studied guidelines handed down by the courts for publishing books of this nature, and we were careful to abide by those guidelines.”

Lucasfilm attorney Fields estimated Little, Brown has sales of more than $1 million to date from its “Star Wars Compendium” but said the actual amount won’t be determined until the discovery process.

He added that the suit didn’t specify an amount for damages for that reason.

In another indication that Lucasfilm plans to take on a lot more than Time Warner, Fields said: “We haven’t decided which (alleged infringer) will be next, but we’ll be filing again shortly.”

According to Lucasfilm, the “Star Wars” films have spawned an extensive library of more than 300 spin-off novels, comic books and nonfiction works that have sold more than 50 million copies around the world.

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