Hollywood Docket: 'Star Wars' Sabacc Game Sparks Another Lawsuit

A roundup of entertainment legal news.
Lucasfilm Ltd./20th Century Fox/Photofest
'Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back' (1980)

The fictional Star Wars card game during which Han Solo won the Millennium Falcon from Lando Calrissian is at the center of a growing trademark dispute, as a mobile gamemaker is now claiming promotions for the upcoming Solo: A Star Wars Story infringe on its trademark rights.

Disney's Lucasfilm in December sued Ren Ventures for trademark and copyright infringement and unfair competition, claiming it launched a "Sabacc" mobile game app prior to the 2015 release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens to capitalize on the famous franchise. The gamemaker responded by telling the court Lucasfilm doesn't actually own rights to Sabacc because it's impossible to trademark fictional goods and services and those claims should be dismissed.

Last week, Ren turned that argument on its head and sued Lucasfilm for trademark infringement, arguing the studio's marketing of the fictional Sabacc for Solo infringes on its rights to the real mobile game. Denny's and Collider are also named as defendants in the suit because of a "Hand of Sabacc" commercial connected to the film.

Ren is asking the court for a declaration that Lucasfilm and its partners infringed on its Sabacc mark and an injunction barring them from using the term. (Read the complaint here.)

Since then, U.S. District Judge Richard Seeborg denied Ren's motion to dismiss the trademark claim, finding the company misconstrues Lucasfilm's allegations. 

"'Sabacc' functions as a mark for Lucasfilm and the Star Wars franchise, which are real entities that exist in commerce," he writes. "Star Wars has extensive licensing and merchandising arms that make use of the franchise’s fanciful elements in order to sell entertainment products, including Sabacc card game products. ... As a consequence, the word 'Sabacc' signifies Lucasfilm and the Star Wars franchise in the minds of the consuming public. At the pleading stage, Lucasfilm has made a sufficient showing to survive a motion to dismiss." 

In other entertainment legal news:

— Bill O'Reilly is asking the court to either toss or compel arbitration in a defamation complaint filed against him and his former network Fox News by three women who settled sexual harassment complaints and signed confidentiality agreements. He argues two of the women, Andrea Mackris and Rebecca Gomez Diamond, executed arbitration agreements and Rachel Witlieb Bernstein's claims should be stayed pending that arbitration. O'Reilly also argues that the allegedly defamatory statements concerned his opinions of the "unbalanced journalism that went into the stories published about him" and not the women themselves and therefore all three of them fail to state a claim for defamation.

— The major Hollywood studios and streamers are teaming up in a lawsuit against Set TV, which they claim is inducing mass copyright infringement. Amazon, Netflix, Sony, Disney, Universal and others on April 20 sued the company over its Setvnow service. According to the complaint, for $20 per month users can stream more than 500 channels of live television and thousands of on-demand shows — all of which is transmitted through unauthorized third-party sources. (Read the complaint here.)

— Blue Man Group is suing its insurance company for not contributing to a settlement that resolved a 2016 royalties lawsuit brought by Ian Pai. According to the complaint, Ironshore Indemnity agreed to pay 70 percent of the cost to defend the suit but is refusing to indemnify Blue Man Group Holdings for the settlement. BMGH claims its policy covers up to $3 million, but Ironshore would only commit to contributing $500,000 toward a settlement and therefore it couldn't resolve the dispute before the trial began on April 9. A few days later, BMGH settled with Pai without Ironshore's participation, and now it is suing for breach of contract and seeking the $2 million it says is remaining on its policy.