Lucasfilm Asks Court to Strike Counterclaims in 'Star Wars' Card Game Trademark Dispute

Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (1980) - Billy Dee Williams -Harrison Ford -Photofest- H 2017
Lucasfilm Ltd./20th Century Fox/Photofest

As fans eagerly await the premiere of the first Han Solo-centric Star Wars flick, Lucasfilm is asking the court to strike claims in a suit that takes issue with its promotion of the project.

It's the latest development in a legal battle over Sabacc, a fictional card game from a galaxy far, far away in which Solo won his iconic Millennium Falcon from Lando Calrissian. Lucasfilm launched the first strike in December, suing Ren Ventures over an unauthorized mobile version of the game. Ren fired back, claiming the studio doesn't actually own the intellectual property rights to the fictional game and the film's promotional campaign is infringing on Ren's rights in regards to the game maker's real-world version.

In a motion to strike filed Thursday, Lucasfilm is asking the court to toss Ren's counterclaims for common-law trademark infringement and unfair competition, arguing that they target activity that's protected under California law. Specifically, the studio argues the claims are in response to "an advertisement, a promotional tweet, and statements made during an interview related to the much anticipated motion picture Solo: A Star Wars Story, all of which are in furtherance of and in connection with protected free speech."

"Defendants apparently believe that the best defense is any offense, including a meritless one fueled by gall," writes attorney Cynthia Arato. "To prevail on their state law claims, Defendants must demonstrate that Lucasfilm's use of Sabacc in the promotions for Solo: A Star Wars Story are likely to cause consumer confusion as to the origin, source, or sponsorship of Sabacc. Defendants have zero probability of demonstrating this confusion."

The studio reiterates that Sabacc has been part of its Star Wars universe since 1980 — in both a draft of the screenplay for The Empire Strikes Back and a novelization of that story — nearly four decades before the 2016 mobile game was released. It argues a party that chooses a trademark that is already associated with another party has no basis to complain about confusion.

A hearing on the motion, which is posted below, is set for June.