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Posted: Mon Feb 20, 2012 12:29 pm
by russonline1

If i wished to use an infants line drawing/interpretation of Darth Vador in a magazine advert for a brand of sweeties but made no mention to him or Star Wars, would i have any legal implications?

Many Thanks!

Posted: Mon Feb 20, 2012 7:20 pm
by AndyJ
Hi Russ,
As Darth Vader is a character found in feature films I don't think his likeness in a drawing would be considered infringement under UK law. I say this because it is generally recognised that ideas are not themselves protected by copyright, only the expression of the idea. A fictional character is an 'idea'. The expression of a film character is normally taken to mean the words he speaks, the mannerisms he adopts and the way he dresses etc, in other words the features which we observe that allow us to distinguish between, say Darth Vader and Chewbacca. In my opinion an outline sketch would fall far short of the test for substantiality which the law requires. And just to be clear there are no registered trade marks for the figure of Darth Vader, although the name is.

But, George Lucas is renown for actively protecting of his intellectual property*, and so it is possible that he and his lawyers would take a very different view to me on this. This could result in a letter demanding that you cease and desist using your figure drawing, or face the possibility of being sued. It would then become something of an unequal battle between you and the resources of Lucasfilm if you chose to ignore the letter. Unfair though this may seem, I think you have to weigh up the possible advantages to you of using this figure, and the disadvantage of maybe having to back down at a later stage.
There is a third way, which is to discuss licensing the use of the image of the actual Darth Vader figure on your product, with Lucasfilm.

*For instance see here, here, here and here