QCs revel in intergalactic stoush

By Lawyers Weekly|03 March 2012

Two of the UK's top lawyers were busy crossing lights sabres this week as they battled over the future of the universe.The Star Wars universe, that is.As reported by RollonFriday, the UK Supreme…

Two of the UK's top lawyers were busy crossing lights sabres this week as they battled over the future of the universe.

The Star Wars universe, that is.

As reported by RollonFriday, the UK Supreme Court bore witness to a dark battle over whether the iconic stormtrooper helmet, designed for and used in the first Star Wars film, is protected under copyright law.


Representing the rebel force (i.e. British designer Andrew Ainsworth, who invented the headwear in question and kept on distributing it following the success of the film) was Alistair Wilson QC, while Jonathan Sumption QC was acting for the empire: Lucasfilm Limited.

The crux of the case was whether the stormtrooper helmet was an artistic "sculpture" or a functional piece of equipment.

Sumption argued vehemently on behalf of Lucasfilm that the helmet had to be seen as a sculpture because it was used in an "imaginary" universe and could thus not possibly have a functional purpose.

"Star Wars films are set in an imaginary, science-fiction world of the future," he reportedly argued.

But the Supreme Court unanimously rejected that argument, agreeing with an earlier decision of the Court of Appeal that the helmet - despite originally existing in a pretend universe - had "a function within the confines of the film as the equipment of the stormtrooper".


The court thus concluded that the helmet was not a mere sculpture and therefore Ainsworth could continue to go on his merry way and distribute it.

Folklaw does not pretend to be a hardcore Star Wars fan - with knowledge of the film being limited to Ewoks and that cute little round robot thing - but it is quite certain that the QCs involved very much enjoyed working on this one ...

QCs revel in intergalactic stoush
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