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A Stormtrooper….sculpture? « Definition IP

A Stormtrooper….sculpture?

The meaning of a “sculpture “was considered in Lucasfilm v Ainsworth, at the UK Supreme Court.  This case concerned the Stormtrooper helmets made for use in the first Star Wars film, “Star Wars Episode IV – A New Hope”.  While the case also dealt with issues of jurisdiction, a key point of this appeal related to the definition of “sculpture” in the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988, and, in particular,the correct approach to three-dimensional objects that have both an artistic purpose and a utilitarian function.  The defendant in this case, Mr Ainsworth, was been involved in making the Stormtrooper helmets for the first Star Wars film, working from drawings and paintings prepared by an artist in line with concepts devised by George Lucas. Mr Ainsworth produced prototype helmets, and once approved by George Lucas, he made the helmets for use in the film.  In 2004, Mr Ainsworth made and sold helmets using his original tools.  Lucasfilm sued Mr Ainsworth for copyright infringement, on the basis that the helmets were “sculptures”, giving rise to copyright protection.  The Supreme Court rejected this premise, finding that the Star Wars film itself was the work of art.  The helmet was a functional object, not an artistic one, in the sense that it was an element in the process of production of the film.  As such, it was not a sculpture within the meaning of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act.  (CDPA).