Star Wars / Kenner Star Wars design patents on the SWCA

ChrisGeorgoulias

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One of my pet projects lately has been to revamp this section on the Archive since we unveiled it in 1998 (to the sound of chirping crickets, unfortunately). I found many other patents that we never had and the new Google interface is much nicer than the old USPTO one that we originally pulled the images from.

Toy Design Patents

Just thought I'd share because it's really neat to see the exact vintage toy likenesses shown and people don't often visit the Info & Reference section of the site to even know it's there. It's interesting to see what they did and did not patent (no Millennium Falcon for instance) and how the Lucasfilm and Kenner SW design patents basically stopped after this period.

And for those with interests in other toy lines, there are a ton of familiar sightings when you start following all of the references, citations, and assignees.

-chris
 
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ChrisGeorgoulias

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It's the Rebel Medical Frigate, of which a vintage toy was never made. I think Lucas and company were just patenting their character and vehicle designs as toys (or in the assumption they'd be toys) regardless if they actually ended up being so.

It's interesting to see 3PO and R2 patented as "robot" rather than "toy figure" as the rest were.
 

Bjamin_S

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These are brilliant Chris, I do remember seeing them some years back, but had pretty much forgotten about them.

I'm curious to hear, did any original artwork from this material surface? I've not heard of anything on the market over the years.
 

Joshua_A

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It's the Rebel Medical Frigate, of which a vintage toy was never made. I think Lucas and company were just patenting their character and vehicle designs as toys (or in the assumption they'd be toys) regardless if they actually ended up being so.

It's interesting to see 3PO and R2 patented as "robot" rather than "toy figure" as the rest were.
Ha ha. Yeah I worked out it was the Frigate :p

I am surprised they didn't give a us a medic bay set. Could of been like the Star Destroyer one. Just needed to make a Luke with removal hand to go with it. :sneaky:
 
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The illustrations on the ships (especially Slave 1, Snowspeeder and AT-AT) are quite nice!
 

ChrisGeorgoulias

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I'm curious to hear, did any original artwork from this material surface? I've not heard of anything on the market over the years.
Ha. No - that the original artwork surfaced is not why I got back into that section. It's a nice thought though! I was doing some patent research and saw that we had missing things so I went on a mission to dig up as much as I could and make it complete. It can be nice supplementary material for toy prototype displays however because of how "official" it is and looks.

-chris
 

Grant

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Hey Chris thanks for posting those images. I can only kind of echo what others have said, how cool would it have been to have had Jabba's Sail Barge or to even at least see a Rebel Medical fleet ship.

Grant.
 

skye

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Great update, Chris.

A couple of of questions about the inventors.

-Why wasn't Lucas on all of them? Did this change how much money he made on the toys?
-Were the toy sculptors only credited on the one's they completely invented, iike the mini-rigs?

How about McQuarrie getting sole billing for the lightsaber!

Also, how about Jabba the Hutt being cited in cases with golf club, a sippee cup and a toy manatee. :)
 

ChrisGeorgoulias

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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.
 
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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.
 
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HWR

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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.
 

chiquetaba

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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 :p

stephane
 

Isaac_S_Lew

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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
 
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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?

 

Isaac_S_Lew

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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
 

UTINI

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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!
 

Tim_Z

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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
 
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ChrisGeorgoulias

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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.
 
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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 exact same thought ran through my mind when I was posting that follow-up question for Isaac and couldn't find a Stormtrooper patent to reference.
 

Tim_Z

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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.
Thanks Chris, that's great info. All I can say is, I hope patent lawyers are well paid... what an incredibly tedious task that sounds!
 

assemblyrequired

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I 've seen the LEGO patents framed up and they are really nice. I like the SW one and might do the same by enlarging them to frame.



-james
 
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