Battle will be joined tomorrow in a British case in which a rebel prop designer will challenge George Lucas, emperor of the Star Wars universe, as to who owns the rights to the stormtrooper costumes used in the films. Andrew Ainsworth designed the helmets and armor for the original movie in 1977, but ran afoul of LucasFilm after he started to sell replica armor to fans a few years ago.
Apparently, Star Wars fans were paying upwards of $2,000 per suit, despite ample evidence that the armor offers little protection and the helmet limits the wearer’s vision, making it impossible to hit a target.
LucasFilm successfully sued Ainsworth in California, and was awarded $20 million for infringement. The British proceeding is to enforce that judgment against Ainsworth, who lives in England. Ainsworth, meanwhile, is counter-claiming that LucasFilm is the one that’s infringing, so that it has never had the rights to make or sell any toys or costumes that copy the original design. As the article put it, somewhat conservatively, "The counterclaim is worth more than the $20m LucasFilm is seeking as it is claiming a cut of profits made from Star Wars since 1977." My research team tells me that the amount of profits therefore at stake is, roughly, a lot.
The trial is expected to last about 10 days.