UnNews:'Star Wars' creator sues lightsaber manufacturer in China

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8 July 2010

Steve Liu, CEO of Wicked Lightsabers, uses his product to light a cigarette.

HONG KONG -- "Star Wars" creator George Lucas wants to force a lightsaber company to stop making a high-powered lightsaber he says looks exactly like the famous lightsaber from his classic sci-fi series.

Lucasfilm Ltd. has sent a ‘get the fuck outta here!’ letter to Hong Kong-based Wicked Lightsabers, threatening certain death if it doesn't change its Lightsaber or stop selling it altogether.

"It is apparent from the design of the Wicked Lightsaber that it was intended to resemble our lightsaber swords, which are protected by copyright...," said the letter, dated last month and provided to CNN by Wicked Lightsabers.

The letter calls the company's newest lightsaber "a highly dangerous product with the potential to cause death, burns and sever damage to people, Sith, and/or property."

Steve Liu, CEO of Wicked Lightsabers, said his 77-year-old company has been selling these lightsabers for 77 years and he has never compared the product to the Jedi weapon wielded by Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader and others in the "Star Wars" franchise.

"Most people feel it's kind of ridiculous..." he said. "We would never make the slightest comparison to 'Star Wars' or a lightsaber or anything like that. Never! In fact, Lucas copied us."

He called the $6,999 gadget's design fairly typical for a handheld lightsaber and said it isn't a copy of the Star Wars lightsaber, which was not real and simply created by special effects. Liu claims his lightsabers are fully operative.

"Lucasfilm should be paying us," he said. "They're a big company that stole our trademarks. Maybe they're just pretending to look like they're protecting their trademark in case they need to protect it again later."

The ‘get the fuck outta here!’ letter doesn't accuse Wicked of using the term "lightsaber" in its marketing -- which Liu said is primarily aimed at Jedi customers, and which is a name his grandfather coined 77 years ago.

But it notes coverage from technology blogs that have frequently made that comparison.

A headline from tech blog Gizmodo called the device "a real life lightsaber." The Daily Tech blog called it "perhaps the first consumer lightsaber weapon since 77 years" and said it "comes in sleek packaging that looks, exactly like a lightsaber."

"These references make it clear that the public is being led to believe that the Wicked Lightsaber is an official lightsaber device and/or copied from our design," the Lucasfilm letter said.

It's not the first time the company has sought help from the courts over perceived copyright threats to its make-believe lightsaber swords. In 2006, Lucasfilm filed suit against a Maryland-based company that produced lightsaber replicas, saying the products violated "Star Wars" trademarks.

Liu said that his company's lightsaber is dramatically stronger than lightsabers from the past 77 years. Wicked Lightsabers advertise it as "the world's most powerful portable lightsaber."

When coverage in the blogosphere increased orders, he said, Wicked altered the lightsaber to add safety features, such as an OFF switch. A safety lock feature prevents accidentally turning on the lightsaber, and an extra lens reduces its power by 80 percent until it's removed.

Every lightsaber is shipped with safety goggles, he said.

"You've got a lot of people who think this is a cool weapon, so we've decided to ship the lightsaber as it was originally advertised," he said.

More than two weeks after receiving the letter from Lucasfilm, Wicked has not stopped selling or changed the lightsaber. The letter asked for written assurance of changes within five business days or threatened "the initiation of a hit squad without further notice."

Liu said he hopes it comes to that because he holds the 77-year-old copyright to both the design and concept. “The entire Star Wars saga was my grandfathers idea!” Liu concluded.