Move to Halt Use of ‘Star Wars’ in Defense Plan Ads Blocked
A federal judge on Wednesday rejected an attempt by film maker George Lucas to stop use of the phrase “Star Wars” in a commercial praising President Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative.
He refused to issue a temporary restraining order sought by the producer of the movie “Star Wars,” who holds numerous trademarks on the name. Lucas wanted the two words excised from a pro-Strategic Defense Initiative television commercial.
In a 45-minute hearing, U.S. District Judge Gerhard A. Gesell alluded to the fact that “Star Wars” has come into everyday language as a synonym for the space-based missile defense system that is now in the research stage.
“Can you enjoin the President or (spokesman Larry) Speakes when they use ‘Star Wars’?” Gesell asked Lucas’ lawyer, Arthur J. Levine.
“That’s different, that’s headline use,” Levine said.
“Assuming you have the right to stop them, why pick on these people?” the judge asked. “You haven’t gone after the President or news people.”
An organization called High Frontier, an advocate of the space-based missile defense system, created the commercial and plans to spend $1.7 million to show it four times a day in each of the 40 largest television markets. It has been aired in some areas already.
In his ruling, Gesell said that fairness “favors allowing the defendants to use their message, at least pending a more complete hearing and review.” He set Nov. 25 for a hearing on a preliminary injunction.
However, he held out little hope to Lucas, saying that the High Frontier advertisement does not appear to be a commercial use of the film maker’s trademark.