Friday, February 20, 2015

Jedi Business, Go Back to Your Drinks



Would you trust a Jedi to fight for truth? How about to wire your house? Or to give you a good deal on a car?

During a recent dive into the vastness of the web, I discovered the odd phenomenon of "Jedi"-named businesses. According to my research, there are at least five registered, officially legal businesses in the United States that employ the word "Jedi" in their company name.

There is also a Jedi Volkswagon and Audi dealership in the Netherlands.

I'm not sure if any of the US businesses are related, despite having the same name. Googling "Jedi Enterprises" only brings up information on the Rhode Island company. There is a Rhode Island Contractor Status Report and the company owner, Eric Scheer, is on LinkedIn. Unfortunately, according to Bizapedia.com, after 23 years in business, the company is now inactive.

The number of "Jedi" businesses is surprising, as Jedi is of course synonymous with the Star Wars Universe, which is owned by the Disney mega-multi-media empire. And when it comes to copyright, Disney is known to be very protective, despite loosening the reigns a little on videos. (Henry Jenkins and other multi-media story professors are happy with the development, I'm sure.)

But creating media based on Disney copyrights is different from running a business with a property name. But is the term "Jedi" copyrighted?

Apparently not. According to the article "Can a Single Word Be Copyrighted?" by Louis Kroeck, the answer is "no".
According to the United States Copyright Office, single words, phrases, slogans and titles are not available for copyright registration because they do not contain the minimum amount of authorship found in works typically granted copyright protection.
So "Jedi" is not copyrighted, neither is "Jordi", "Scrubbings", or "hghtgfsdehfgghrgvvseasxs" - a word I may have just completely made up. But according to the copyright office, even though I created it, I can't copyright it.

However, if you pair "Jedi" with another word Lucasfilm/Disney has used in conjunction with "Jedi", such as "Jedi Knight" or "Jedi Academy", then you might face a lawsuit. For example, in 2010, LucasFilms sued a computer company named "Jedi Mind" for copyright infringement. Instead of challenging the claim, Jedi Mind changed their name to "Mind Mouse".

Overall, the US Patent Office webpage has 54 entries for "Jedi", many of which are owned by Lucasfilm.

Lucasfilm's authority does not include the hip-hop group Jedi Mind Tricks, however. From what I can find, bands are covered under a different regulation. According to AlanKorn.com, band names are not copyrightable. However,
Band names are actually considered "service marks" because they help distinguish between providers of entertainment services. If they are used in interstate commerce, trademarks and service marks can both be registered with the U.S. Office of Patents and Trademarks. Besides obtaining registration of a service mark, a band may also register its name as a trademark if it is associated with specific merchandise, such as record albums, t-shirts or school lunch boxes.
But in Star Wars, Jedi Mind Tricks have nothing to do with music, so perhaps as Jedi Mind Tricks the group is a "service" and "jedi mind tricks" the Star Wars noun is a fictional action, they are totally different in the eyes of the law. As well, Jedi Mind Tricks the group can have logos and symbols, as no such entity exists in Star Wars. At least that is my understanding.

Oddly enough, Lucasfilm does not own many of the obvious "jedi" domain names. None of the following are Lucasfilm websites:
It is very possible the empty sites are being squatted in the chance Lucasfilm ever wants to give the owners money for the domain name. Then I'm sure those owners will gladly sell. Interestingly, not only are the jedi sites empty, but so is sith.com.

It is very possible Lucasfilm is content with these other sites as long as they own StarWars.com. Keeping everything on one site makes it easier for fans and keeps them channeled for all their information. As long as the other domain names don't attack the brand or cause confusion, they are acceptable risk.

Likewise, the many companies using the word "Jedi" throughout the world are also acceptable risk. They can continue to re-wire houses and sell cars using the single word "Jedi" in their name. But if they do anything that dares cross the Lucasfilm line of copyright, they can expect to feel the wrath of the Dark Side.

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