If you want to teach people how to fight with a lightsaber, you had better get Disney's permission first. A man by the name of Michael Brown is learning that the hard way. Lucasfilm, which Disney owns, has recently filed a lawsuit against Michael Brown, who owns the stage combat training school The Lightsaber Academy, for using Star Wars trademarks without permission.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Lucasfilm has sent Michael Brown several notices to cease using the trademarks without permission, but that failed to do the trick. He owns several businesses including The Lightsaber Academy, Thrills and Skills as well as New York Jedi that teach interested Star Wars fans the ways of the Jedi. Lucasfilm clearly doesn't like these business cashing in on their good name, so Michael Brown is now being sued for millions of dollars. Here is some of the official complaint that was filed.
"Defendants regularly use the Lucasfilm Trademarks without authorization in connection with their businesses. Among other infringing activities, Defendants use a logo that is nearly identical, and confusingly similar, to Lucasfilm's trademark Jedi Order logo... round in shape, with six wing-like shapes curving upward (three per side), and an eight-pointed star featuring elongated top and bottom points stretched into a vertical line."
The services offered by these businesses can be found at lightsaberacademy.com, and the logo appears to be identical to the classic Jedi Order logo, so it is fairly understandable why Lucasfilm isn't happy about the situation. Lucasfilm has a long history of embracing fan art and representations of the Star Wars brand, but the common thread is that these creations from the fan community tend not to be a legitimate for-profit business. In this case, places like The Lightsaber Academy appear to essentially be teaching stage combat, but using Star Wars language and imagery to draw in customers.
Disney purchased all of Lucasfilm back in 2012 for more than $4 billion and has been doing just about everything they can to profit from the Star Wars name, seemingly for the benefit of fans. There is an obsessive team in place to make sure that the Star Wars brand is being used in ways that align with the Disney and Lucasfilm's larger plans, so something like this wasn't likely to go unnoticed. A fan film is one thing, but several schools claiming to teach people the ways of the Jedi in an unofficial capacity is another.
According to THR, Michael Brown has yet to comment on the matter, but he did file a trademark application for "Lightsaber Academy, Inc." At the moment, he could be facing up to $2 million in damages for each Star Wars trademark that was infringed upon. Given the apparent lack of permission and Disney's very deep pockets, it seems hard to believe that Michael Brown and The Jedi Academy are going to come out of the lawsuit on top.