George Lucas’ Lucasfilm is suing London-based prop workshop Shepperton Design Studios in London’s High Court for copyright infringement.
Shepperton Design Studios topper Andrew Ainsworth acted as prop designer on the original “Star Wars” film in the 1970s, and his firm produced costumes including the iconic Stormtrooper mask.
The firm subsequently began selling replica items online advertised as “made by the original prop-maker from the original molds.” It sells the Stormtrooper armor and helmet for $3,500 at SDSprops.com.
Lucasfilm argues that Shepperton’s sale of upscale replica “Star Wars” costumes is unlawful as Shepperton does not possess the copyright.
Lucasfilm won some $20 million in damages in U.S. courts in 2006, but it needs the support of the High Court in London to enforce the order on the British Ainsworth.
On Tuesday, opening day of the trial, Lucasfilm attorney Michael Bloch said, “By the time Ainsworth was brought in to make the Stormtrooper helmet, the look to be created had been worked on by a large group of people for perhaps more than a year.”
Ainsworth based his work on drawings by Lucas’ illustrator Ralph McQuarrie and others.
Shepperton is countersuing, claiming the design rights have expired.
Over the coming days, its legal team is expected to argue that the costumes are covered by design rights law, under which protection expires after a decade, not artistic copyright, which lasts the lifetime of the artist plus 70 years.
Bloch has promised some “extremely talented people” will appear in court, expected to include “Star Wars” art director Norman Reynolds and costume designer John Mollo.
The case is expected to last 10 days.