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Lightsaber Wars!

Use the Force, Lucas!

Lucasfilm Ltd. (1), based in Marin County (a photo of the Marin County Civic Center [1], designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, is above) has sent a cease-and-desist letter to Hong Kong-based Wicked Lasers, threatening legal action if the laser company does not change its Pro Arctic Laser series or stop selling it altogether.

The creator of “Star Wars,” George Lucas, says that the new, high-powered hand-held product looks too much like the lightsaber from the science fiction film series. The letter, dated June 2010, was provided to CNN by the Wicked Lasers company. According to CNN, the letter stated, in part:

“It is apparent from the design of the Pro Arctic Laser that it was intended to resemble the hilts of our lightsaber swords, which are protected by copyright ….”

Although the marketing by Wicked Lasers does not make references to lightsabers, the CNN article mentions references by technology blogs that DO:

A headline from tech blog Gizmodo called the device ‘a real life lightsaber.’ The Daily Tech blog called it ‘perhaps the first consumer laser weapon’ and said it ‘comes in sleek packaging that looks, unsurprisingly like a lightsaber.'”

The Gizmodo blog refers to the device as a weapon, not a toy or a pointer, which can cause blindness and set things or people on fire. The blog provides a video that demonstrates the power of the version (the Spyder III Arctic, billed as” the world’s most powerful portable laser” [1 watt]; they must mean nonmilitary). :-)

All of the attention in the blogosphere increased orders, and Wicked Lasers altered the laser to add safety features. A safety lock prevents turning on the laser accidentally and an extra lens reduces its power by 80% until removed. The company also ships safety goggles with every laser. Wicked Lasers also has a laser safety page on its site that notes the dangers of lasers, particularly to the eyes, and shows photographs of people who have been convicted after pointing much less powerful lasers at aircraft.

Even as I write this blog, I envision two developments:

  1. the Spyder III winds up in the hands of irresponsible people or children who can afford it (this has probably already happened). You and I both know idiots who shine low-powered laser pointers at people’s eyes.
  2. some well-meaning but overly simplistic California State Legislator will introduce a bill regulating or banning the device (I know JUST the guy!). If you like to demonize OBJECTS, what a heckuv’an object to demonize! Let’s just wait to see if it happens, and then I’ll say, “I TOLD you so!” :-)

We shall also have to wait to see if legal action from Lucasfilm Ltd. is forthcoming, since the Spyder III still looks the same and is still being shipped. In 2006, Lucasfilm Ltd. filed suit against a Maryland-based company that produced replicas of lightsabers, stating that the products violated “Star Wars” trademarks.

(Note added August 2, 2010: The Force is strong in Hong Kong! Wicked Lasers has made “clarifying statements” and Lucasfilm has changed its corporate mind :-) about suing the laser maker. However, the Spyder 3 laser has increased in price from $199 to $299 as the result of “increased operating costs,” according to Wicked Lasers. Controversy can be a GOOD thing, indeed!)

-Bill at

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