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Thread: Star Wars / Kenner Star Wars design patents on the SWCA

  1. #11
    From what I know about patents at work, by my terms of employment, any IP created remains the sole property of the company (the "assignee") however, the employee or employees who created the item are the "inventors". Many of those ILM ones list just the person that came up with the design, but Lucasfilm is the assignee and the owne. In some cases it looks like George had a hand in the design which is why he's listed as an inventor. It's pretty standard for the company to own the IP on an idea since it was developed on their dime.

    The same thing applied to the Kenner items as well. CPG owned the IP, but the designers got the inventor credit. Some companies give a small bonus if you get a patent, others don't, and others may pay a small royalty. It's all up to the company.
    The Star Wars Collectors Archive
    www.theswca.com
    chris@toysrgus.com

  2. #12
    I noticed the term on the Fett as being 14 years. I'm guessing this is a standard term for patents, but since it was filed in 1979 (issued in 1982) that would mean the term was up in 1993 (or 1996 from the issue date). Might be procedural, but I was curious if patents require owners to renew after the term period, and/or if they eventually roll into public domain. I guess the other view is that it doesn't really matter if these were only filed for the creation of these vintage line, but to me it's an interesting situation with a new owner that historically doesn't like anyone messing with their characters, and who has been known to lobby extensively to ensure their works don't fall into public domain.
    Last edited by finestcomics; 01-01-2013 at 05:26 PM.

  3. #13
    Great updates and very interesting information. This is an area of The Archive, I visit way to rarely, well have been visiting The Archive in general to rarely lately.

  4. #14
    Hi Chris, thanks for the great update, you're right the new google interface is much more intuitive and it even automatically displays the page in the visitor's language!! I'm going to have another look at those patents

    Henrik, yes, you should check the Archive more often, there's plenty of great stuff, I invite everyone to do so

    stephane

  5. #15
    Quote Originally Posted by finestcomics View Post
    I noticed the term on the Fett as being 14 years. I'm guessing this is a standard term for patents, but since it was filed in 1979 (issued in 1982) that would mean the term was up in 1993 (or 1996 from the issue date). Might be procedural, but I was curious if patents require owners to renew after the term period, and/or if they eventually roll into public domain. I guess the other view is that it doesn't really matter if these were only filed for the creation of these vintage line, but to me it's an interesting situation with a new owner that historically doesn't like anyone messing with their characters, and who has been known to lobby extensively to ensure their works don't fall into public domain.
    Design patents, which these are, have a term of 14 years from the date the patent issues. Patents are not renewable. So yes, that particular design patent has expired and, academically speaking, is in the public domain. But the Boba Fett character is still protected by copyright and trademark laws which would prevent anyone else from making Boba Fett toys.

    -Isaac

  6. #16
    Quote Originally Posted by Isaac_S_Lew View Post
    Design patents, which these are, have a term of 14 years from the date the patent issues. Patents are not renewable. So yes, that particular design patent has expired and, academically speaking, is in the public domain. But the Boba Fett character is still protected by copyright and trademark laws which would prevent anyone else from making Boba Fett toys.

    -Isaac
    Great, thank-you for that information!

    Just curious then, if we see modern knock-off or reproduction figures that carbon copy the ornamental designs as originally patented by LFL, whether they would be considered "fair use?" I'm guessing that the copyright/trade mark laws would kick in if it was a flagrant infringement (for example, unlicensed examples also using the trademarked names), but when I read your response it reminded me of what happened with the repro Stormies that were made and sold in a blister pack that included a black/shadow Stormie. Those even carried what was assumed by many discussing the matter here the Star Wars logo and a fake copyright mention at the bottom of the card/blister. Seemed pretty gutsy, but some argued it straddled the line of fan custom or bootleg enough to not fall into the area of infringement. Maybe Poon knew what he could or couldn't get away with when reproducing works from expired patents?


  7. #17
    Quote Originally Posted by finestcomics View Post
    Great, thank-you for that information!

    Just curious then, if we see modern knock-off or reproduction figures that carbon copy the ornamental designs as originally patented by LFL, whether they would be considered "fair use?" I'm guessing that the copyright/trade mark laws would kick in if it was a flagrant infringement (for example, unlicensed examples also using the trademarked names), but when I read your response it reminded me of what happened with the repro Stormies that were made and sold in a blister pack that included a black/shadow Stormie. Those even carried what was assumed by many discussing the matter here the Star Wars logo and a fake copyright mention at the bottom of the card/blister. Seemed pretty gutsy, but some argued it straddled the line of fan custom or bootleg enough to not fall into the area of infringement. Maybe Poon knew what he could or couldn't get away with when reproducing works from expired patents?
    Patent law provides for no fair use exceptions. Out of the three types of IP, it is the one that confers the broadest rights in the holder and that's why it's the shortest in duration. But that's not really the point with these toys. As you correctly point out, as soon as you start using copyrighted characters and trademarked names and logos, you're in trouble. It doesn't matter that the patent is expired. The thing to keep in mind is that a work can be protected by various types of IP, and just because some IP rights might have expired doesn't mean the work isn't still protected by others. Those Mark Poon toys clearly infringe copyright and trademark law. There's no doubt. Now whether Lucasfilm actually cares is a different story.

    -Isaac

  8. #18
    Very cool! I hadn't visited that section in a while. I need to make something cool with all those drawings...

    Also, great podcast this month!

  9. #19
    Interesting to see earlier characters being cited in the design of later ones, for example, Bossk for Gam Guard and Klaatu.

    Also, check out Bib Fortuna whose design referenced items from 1927, 1932 and 1943! Does this mean the person designing it was actually looking through a series of images of existing items to create it ?! I was under the impression that figures were born purely in the mind (or at least from subconscious or historic images stored there.)

    EDIT : Looks like it's Tippett's creations. How's about this for a challenge... track down the cited items to add to one's focus! Has anyone ever tried this ?

    Here's Max Rebo's pieces...

    http://www.google.com/patents?id=Szo8AAAAEBAJ
    Last edited by Tim_Z; 01-04-2013 at 07:42 AM. Reason: Formatting and after-thought.
    My Feedback
    Looking to acquire vintage hardcopy parts.

  10. #20
    When you apply for a patent or just investigate if your idea is patentable you already have your design basically done. What you look for from the USPTO (or an international equivalent) is "prior art" which means basically a pre-existing item already patented. Certainly the SW creatures and costumes were originals, but those folks routinely used images from books and films as inspiration. The library at Skywalker Ranch exists for precisely that purpose.

    What LFL and Kenner did was to have a patent lawyer search to see if the idea was original and if so, they would file the patent application and cite references for similar items, hence the 1920's stuff. That helps the patent reviewer at the USPTO categorize things or narrow down their own search for prior art.

    I wonder if it would have helped for LFL to patent the Stormtrooper, which is oddly missing, when it came time to go after Andrew Ainsworth for making unauthorized armor reproductions then claiming to have been the actual creator of the design. But that's a whole other discussion.
    The Star Wars Collectors Archive
    www.theswca.com
    chris@toysrgus.com

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