Game-maker Sues Lucasfilm over Han Solo Movie

Game-maker Sues Lucasfilm over Han Solo Movie


You may have heard of a little movie called Star Wars. If you haven’t, well, I’ve got some movies for you to borrow. The film was released in 1977, and soon spawned a trilogy of movies that are among the most popular film franchises in the world. Fast forward forty years and eight of the nine triple-trilogy movies have been released, along with spin off movies such as Rogue One and the soon-to-be released Solo. However, the new Solo movie has created a spin-off of its own: a lawsuit filed by a U.K. gamemaker claiming that Lucasfilm’s movie and subsequent advertising infringes on his trademark rights in the mark SABACC.

The complaint was filed by Ren Ventures (“RV”) and its licensee Sabacc Creative Industries and the main issue involved is which party owns rights in the SABACC name and trademark. From the best I can tell, the name Sabacc was coined by George Lucas (the creator of Star Wars) or one of his co-writers at Lucasfilm. The game is mentioned in the original 1977 Star Wars movie and is referenced throughout the Star Wars universe of books and movies. For example, Han Solo “famously” won his spaceship the Millennium Falcon in a Sabacc game. That story likely plays out in the plot of the new Solo movie, which likely explains why Sabacc is prominently featured in advertising related to the movie, like this Denny’s commercial.

But does Lucasfilm’s use of SABACC as a fictional card game in movies and books create enforceable trademark rights? I haven’t seen any current use of SABACC with any specific goods or services, so there doesn’t appear to be any traditional trademark usage (affixed to goods or their packaging). However, Lucasfilms has sought and obtained registration for a number of similar features of the Star Wars universe, as you may recall from this Handy List of Star Wars References that Might Get You Sued. These registered marks include LIGHTSABER, THE FORCE, JEDI, and others. Of course, these marks are used with toys and other merchandise, making Lucasfilm’s claim to trademark rights a bit easier.

In fact, Lucasfilms distributed a licensed Sabacc card game in 1989. An image of the rules are below, but it appears this was a limited distribution.

Given that SABACC is a term coined by Lucasfilm and used only in the Star Wars universe, what type of Jedi mind tricks is RV using to assert its own rights in the SABACC name? Surprisingly, they’re relying on some ancient dark magic – a trademark registration. According to the complaint, RV sought to adopt a trademark for a game that mixed the rules of poker and blackjack. The complaint alleges that RV “searched the public domain for names” for such games, and the search revealed the names Pojack, 727, 727 Poker, Home Card, and Sabaac (ed note: one of these names is not like the other…). It’s unclear what RV meant by searching the “public domain,” as that phrase is normally used for copyright protected works that have lost their protection. Nonetheless, RV filed an application to register the SABACC mark for various computer game software and entertainment services. The application was published for opposition on June 7, 2016 and, after no third-party opposed, a registration issued on Aug. 23, 2016.

Although Lucasfilm actively enforces its rights at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, likely with the assistance of numerous watch services, its hard to fault Lucasfilm for not opposing. After all, even with all that Disney money, it might be difficult to justify a watch notice for each every made up element from the Star Wars universe. Regardless, Lucasfilm eventually learned of the registration and filed a Petition for Cancellation on May 1, 2017 with the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (“TTAB”). Lucasfilm filed a Motion for Summary Judgment and, shortly thereafter, RV filed an infringement action and requested suspension of the cancellation proceeding at the TTAB.

RV has begun use of the SABACC game to promote online games, including at the iTunes store. A screenshot of the store is shown below:

You’ll notice that there are a number of word choices in the description that reference the Star Wars universe. This includes the reference to a “Cantina” (the Mos Eisley Cantina plays a major role in the original Star Wars movie), the word “galaxy” and the phrase “far, far away” (A reference to the films’ opening credits), and a reference to Cloud City, which plays a major role in the Empire Strikes Back. The use of a single one of these might not be concerning, but all of them in combination with Sabacc? Coincidence, I’m sure…

Setting aside Lucasfilm’s potential claims for trademark and copyright infringement, the facts strongly suggest that Luasfilm has a claim of unfair competition against RV. Based on all of these “coincidences,” the facts strongly suggest RV is attempting to capitalize on the goodwill and popularity of Star Wars. RV has essentially created the exact same game from the movies and books, is promoting the game utilizing similar imagery of robots, and utilizing words and phrasing uniquely associated with the Star Wars franchise to promote the game.

RV seems to be placing all of its eggs in the basket of “Lucasfilm didn’t use the mark in commerce and therefore we established valid trademark rights.” Unfortunately, there is at least one allegation in RV’s complaint that they might break a few of those eggs:

when consumers encounter Plaintiff’s pre-existing SABACC brand video playing-card game in the marketplace, they are likely to mistakenly believe that Defendants are the source of, and/or sponsor or endorse, Plaintiff’s SABACC brand video playing-card game, and/or that Defendants, the upcoming Solo Film, and/or Defendants’ Hand of Sabacc Commercial is/are otherwise associated or connected with Plaintiffs, Plaintiff RV’s SABACC Mark, and/or Plaintiff SCI’s pre-existing SABACC brand video playing-card game

The allegation arguably eliminates any need for Lucasfilm to establish use in commerce of the SABACC mark. The allegation suggests that the mere use of playing a Sabacc game in the movie or a in a commercial creates a likelihood of confusion with RV’s video game. If that’s all that it takes to create a likelihood of confusion, it makes it pretty easy for Lucasfilm to agree and simply gather the evidence of Lucasfilm’s use of Sabacc games in its films, moves, books, and related merchandise since 1977, and assert its counterclaim for infringement based on these prior rights.

With an upcoming premiere date of May 15 at the Cannes Film Festival, and a U.S. release date of May 25, there isn’t much time for the parties to work out a settlement. I’m not one with the Force and certainly can’t read minds, but I have a feeling this lawsuit won’t change Lucasfilm’s timeline.

The post Game-maker Sues Lucasfilm over Han Solo Movie appeared first on DuetsBlog.


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April 25, 2018 at 11:51AM

Aggressive Sell, Soft Sell … What Works?

Aggressive Sell, Soft Sell … What Works?


It's not the strategy that's gross -- it's the execution.

Recently, a student of ours asked whether “we” (content-based marketers who might prefer a more subtle approach) can learn anything from “those” marketers who use somewhat obvious tactics like silly quizzes or hyped-up headlines.

In the course of answering this question, the phrase “orange hat marketer” occurred to me. (Don’t worry; this has nothing to do with politics.)

“Black hat” and “white hat” are, of course, terms that some marketing and SEO professionals use to indicate how willing they are to bend rules.

For me, it’s not “black hat” unless you’re lying to your audience, in which case don’t try to tell me what a cute, little gangster you are. It’s illegal and it’s wrong, so go away.

But orange hat … that one is a little more complicated.

In my made-up definition, an “orange hat” marketer is one who’s exceptionally comfortable with cheese.

What’s cheese?

Well, we know it when we see it.

  • It’s a third-grade-level math problem with the headline that “97% of people will get this wrong!”
  • It’s a pushy headline that Claude Hopkins himself would have found a little old-fashioned.
  • It’s an aggressive, “salesy” approach that’s typically defended with the statement, “Well, it works.”

Some real talk

If a “salesy” approach works for you, and you’re not lying to your audience (or yourself), keep doing it.

I don’t think it’s immoral or wrong to use cheesy sales and marketing techniques.

I just don’t happen to believe that “it works” all that well for most audiences today. But if your tests are demonstrating otherwise for you, more power to you.

Human communication evolves

Human nature doesn’t change very fast, or very often. We’re more or less working with the same brains as our Paleolithic ancestors. Maybe a little less hangry, since we have carbs now.

But human communication style changes all the time. Words go in and out of favor. One culture loves an ornate, embroidered writing style — another culture scorns it.

And in a diverse culture like ours, one person’s chuckle is another person’s cheese.

Maybe I’d see a piece of content and call it silly, clumsy, or annoying. Another person would see the same content and find it funny, entertaining, or convincing.

That’s why pretty much everything we’re teaching these days starts with our favorite three-letter word: Who.

Who are you talking to? Who’s your perfect customer? Who is this complicated human individual you’re trying to reach?

If your Who loves cheesy quizzes, give them some really gooey ones. Find out which Hogwarts dinner entrée they are, and embrace it.

Don’t be cynical about it. Find a writer who can revel in it and genuinely have fun. If your customer likes cheese, give them great cheese.

Don’t throw the baby out with the cheesy bath water

It’s also easy to say, “My audience is too sophisticated to respond to quizzes.”

Really? Your audience is so sophisticated that they won’t answer questions so you can address their concerns in a more relevant way? They are, perhaps, a Star Trek futuristic alien race who can telepathically transmit their needs and concerns directly to your brain?

Don’t dismiss quizzes, or story-based content, or any other tactic because you think it’s inherently cheesy.

It’s not the strategy that’s cheesy. It’s the execution.

Quizzes can be inane and fluffy, or they can be well-thought-out, branched content that lets you respond to the specific needs and preferences of that individual.

Story-based content can be rambling and shallow, or it can be well written and insightful.

Some customers like Velveeta and some like Asiago. Find out. Then serve what your particular people are hungry for.

We have a resource coming for the cheese-intolerant

If traditional aggressive selling makes you feel a little bit … cheesed, we have something coming up that you might like.

We’re partnering with a masterful salesperson who has a pressure-free, low-cheese approach to selling that could be right up your alley — and help those of you for whom selling feels uncomfortable or even impossible.

I should have more details for you next week.

Until then, stay cheesy, my friends!


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April 25, 2018 at 09:18AM

The Artist’s Journey, #11

The Artist’s Journey, #11


Welcome to the continuation of our serialization of The Artist’s Journey. To revisit any of the previous chapters, click on these links: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8. Part 9. Part 10.



We said a few chapters ago that the artist’s skill is to shuttle from the material sphere to the sphere of potentiality and back again.

Each one of those trips is a hero’s journey.

Jay-Z in his studio may complete ten thousand hero’s journeys a day.

You do it too.

Ordinary world to Call to Refusal of Call to Threshold to Extraordinary World and back again.

Watch yourself today as you bang out your five hundred words. You’ll see the hero’s journey over and over.



Our real-life hero’s journey—the passage we’ve undergone in the material universe that has carried us to our “return home”—is practice for the next stage in our maturation, the artist’s journey.

Write your first novel. Produce your first movie. Yeah, it’s true that you’ve never done it before. But you’ve had practice. You’ve already endured all the trials and passed through all the stages.

You did it on your hero’s journey.

You crossed the threshold, you encountered allies and enemies, you entered the inmost cave, you’ve died and been reborn. And you’ve made your return safely to the place from which you set forth.

The stages of the artist’s journey are the same stages you’ve rehearsed (even though you had no idea that that was what you were doing) on your hero’s journey.

What, then, are the stages of the artist’s journey?

What is their nature?

How are they different from the stages of the hero’s journey?


B   O   O   K     F   I   V  E

S T A G E S  O F  T H E  A R T I S T’ S  J O U R N E Y



The artist’s journey is enacted on two opposite but linked planes: the mystical and the matter of fact.

(Or, if you prefer, left brain/right brain, Dionysian/Apollonian.)

The artist’s journey is an alchemical admixture of the airy-fairy and the workshop-practical. On the one hand we’re teaching ourselves to surrender to the moment, to inspiration, to intuition, to imagination. On the other, a huge part of our day is about discovering and mastering the nuts-and-bolts mechanics of how to reproduce in the real world the stuff we have encountered in the sphere of the imagination.

Monet spent years figuring out how to affix blobs of paint to canvas in such a way as to produce the illusion of sunlight reflecting off the surface of water. This was blue-collar labor. Trial and error. Seen from the outside, it was the most tedious, excruciating activity imaginable.

Yet at the same time the process was absolutely mystical. What went on in Monet’s mind as he wrestled month after month, year after year with a problem that had bewitched and confounded painters for centuries?

Monet, like every artist, was working simultaneously on both planes.

On the Dionysian he could see in his mind’s eye exactly how sunlight bounced off the curvilinear perimeter of a lily pad. On the Apollonian he was thinking, “If I apply a double-thick blob of gentian violet with a medium pallet knife and twist it left-handed so that the weightiest section of the blob accretes on the right side, then studio daylight reflecting off that, in juxtaposition to the 40/60 mixture of puce and fuchsia of the adjacent blob, should create the exact illusion I’m seeking.”

Like an alchemist laboring to turn lead into gold, the artist operates simultaneously on the planes of the ethereal and the elemental.


In the sphere we call the artist’s journey, we “get down to business.” Crazy-time is over. We have wasted enough years avoiding our calling.

Our aim now is to discover our gift, our voice, our subject. We know now that we have one—and we are driven passionately to identify it and to bring it forth in the real world with optimum wallop.

Here’s Rosanne Cash in her extraordinary memoir Composed.

From that moment I changed the way I approached songwriting, I changed how I sang, I changed my work ethic, and I changed my life. The strong desire to become a better songwriter dovetailed perfectly with my budding friendship with John Stewart, who had written “Runaway Train” for [my album] King’s Record Shop. John encouraged me to expand the subject matter in my songs, as well as my choice of language and my mind. I played new songs for him and if he thought it was too “perfect,” which was anathema to him, he would say, over and over, “but where the MADNESS, Rose?” I started looking for the madness. I sought out Marge Rivingston in New York to work on my voice and I started training, as if I were a runner, in both technique and stamina. Oddly, it turned out that Marge also worked with Linda [Ronstadt], which I didn’t know when I sought her out. I started paying attention to everything, both in the studio and out. If I found myself drifting off into daydreams—an old, entrenched habit—I pulled myself awake and back into the present moment. Instead of toying with ideas, I examined them, and I tested the authenticity of my instincts musically. I stretched my attention span consciously. I read books on writing by Natalie Goldberg and Carolyn Heilbrun and began to self-edit and refine more, and went deeper into every process involved with writing and musicianship. I realized I had earlier been working only within my known range—never pushing far outside the comfort zone to take any real risks … I started painting, so I could learn about the absence of words and sound, and why I needed them. I took painting lessons from Sharon Orr, who had a series of classes at a studio called Art and Soul.

I remained completely humbled by the dream [that had been the epiphanal moment at the end of my hero’s journey], and it stayed with me through every waking hour of completing King’s Record Shop… I vowed the next record would reflect my new commitment. Rodney [Crowell, my then-husband] was at the top of his game as a record producer, but I had come to feel curiously like a neophyte in the studio after the dream. Everything seemed new, frightening, and tremendously exciting.

Here’s James Rhodes, the English concert pianist:

Admittedly I went a little extreme—no income for five years, six hours a day of intense practice, monthly four-day long lessons with a brilliant and psychopathic teacher in Verona, a hunger for something that was so necessary it cost me my marriage, nine months in a mental hospital, most of my dignity and about 35 lbs in weight. And the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow is not perhaps the Disney ending I’d envisaged as I lay in bed aged 10 listening to Horowitz devouring Rachmaninoff at Carnegie Hall.

My life involves endless hours of repetitive and frustrating practising, lonely hotel rooms, dodgy pianos, aggressively bitchy reviews, isolation, confusing airline reward programmes, physiotherapy, stretches of nervous boredom (counting ceiling tiles backstage as the house slowly fills up) punctuated by short moments of extreme pressure (playing 120,000 notes from memory in the right order with the right fingers, the right sound, the right pedalling while chatting about the composers and pieces and knowing there are critics, recording devices, my mum, the ghosts of the past, all there watching), and perhaps most crushingly, the realisation that I will never, ever give the perfect recital. It can only ever, with luck, hard work and a hefty dose of self-forgiveness, be “good enough.”

On the matter-of-fact plane we set ourselves the task, not just of learning our craft, but also of mastering those professional capacities that are even more basic. In the succeeding chapters we’ll attempt an index of these fundamental skills.


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April 25, 2018 at 05:01AM