Computer patents took on an absurd twist this week after a movie studio threatened to sue a technology company for using its fictional idea in a real product. The maker of the most boring prequels in the history of film, George Lucas is trying to stop the production of real Light Sabers.
Lucas claims that he dreamed up the idea of the light sabre and even if his didn't actually work it was still his Intellectual Property. Shanghai-based Wicked Lasers has been making a Spyder III Pro Arctic Laser, which is 4000 per cent more powerful than a standard laser and capable of causing permanent blindness. However Lucas's team of wookie lawyers said “aaagghhhhrrrr” which loosely means that the Pro Arctic Laser "was intended to resemble the hilts of light sabre swords, which are protected by copyright".
Besides the laser a "highly dangerous product" that can blind and burn people and damage property, whereas a Jedi's light sabre was never meant to harm anyone. The letter referred to media reports describing the laser as a "light sabre", which it said made it clear that the public was being led to believe that the product was "an official lightsaber device".
Of course the fact that we in the media call it a light saber does not actually mean that it is. It is just a good story. Steve Liu, chief executive officer of Wicked Lasers, told CNN his company had been marketing similar products for years and had never itself compared them to the Jedi weapon, other than by a few hacks. The $230 laser is marketed mainly to industrial and research customers but anyone can order one from the company's website.
If fantasy copyright is accepted as control over real products then movie studios can sue for anything that was dreamt up in a sci-fi movie and make a killing. We would have thought Star Trek would be a good IP mining ground - tablet PCs, mobile phones, faster than light travel using warp technology.