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Lucasfilm v Ainsworth (Supreme Court)

[2011] UKSC 39

Case summary last updated at 28/01/2020 17:45 by the Oxbridge Notes in-house law team.

Judgement for the case Lucasfilm v Ainsworth (Supreme Court)

D had manufactured helmets for use in the Star Wars films, and some years later had made helmets for general sale in England and the US. C, the companies owned by George Lucas, alleged this act of sale was an infringement of C’s copyright in respect of the helmets; C claimed the helmets were ‘sculptures’, and therefore fell under CDPA1988s.4. Held by Supreme Court:
Lord Walker and Collins
·        Where function of the object is primarily utilitarian, is not sculpture.
·        However mere fact that something has utilitarian purpose does not prevent it being sculpture if its primary purpose is artistic.
·        A stormtroopers’ helmet is utilitarian
Ø  This because it was made entirely in order to fulfil a purpose within a film.
-        i.e. it was simply a prop designed to contribute to the overall artistic effect of the film
Ø  The artistic expression and imagination that went into the helmet was simply to fulfil a utilitarian purpose
-        Therefore fact that object was result of artistic expression did not suffice to make it sculpture given its entirely functional purpose
·        Hence stormtrooper helmets are not sculpture, and therefore do not qualify for copyright as ‘artistic works’.

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