Not such a long time ago, in cities not so far away, Jedi and Sith warriors fought each other on an unprecedented scale. The epic simultaneous battles in San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego and Seattle set a world record for the number of beings fighting with lightsabers at the same time.
Then a real fight broke out, with much more dangerous adversaries: lawyers.
Event company Newmindspace had organized the record-setting battles in December involving 9,951 combatants, with 2,000 in San Francisco. In January, it heard from lawyers for Lucasfilm, the San Francisco movie company that brought Star Wars to the world, and holds the rights to the characters, names and concepts within the Star Wars films.
“For three months we have been aggressively pursued by Lucasfilm over the use of the word ‘lightsaber’ in our events,” said Newmindspace co-founder Kevin Bracken. Newmindspace had been putting on “lightsaber battles” for eight years with no pushback, but in January, perhaps because the multi-city battles had drawn media coverage, a letter arrived from the Lucasfilm lawyers. “We immediately stopped using the words ‘lightsaber,’ ‘Jedi,’ ‘Sith’ and ‘The Force,'” Bracken said.
Newmindspace began using other words for its events and weapons. But as might have been predicted, those words made their way through time and space to Lucasfilm’s legal team. “In March we received further communication stating ‘The Light Battle Tour’ and ‘light sword’ were still too close to their trademarks, and we moved to settle the dispute to avoid legal action,” Bracken said.
In addition to space-age sword-fighting events, Bracken’s Toronto-headquartered non-profit organizes all-ages events such as subway-car parties, public pillow fights, massive games of capture-the-flag on urban streets, and large-scale bubble battles.
Since the agreement with Lucasfilm, Newmindspace has pivoted, and although it has more battles planned – including one on April 30 in San Jose’s St. James Park at 8 p.m. – it has put entire galaxies between itself and any Star Wars-related language. Lightsabers have been replaced with “Catblades,” which it must be said bear a certain resemblance to the famed movie weapon of Luke and Obi-Wan. And the sword-fight events are now dubbed “Cats in Space” because, said Bracken, “with the simple addition of whiskers to anyone’s face, they can be completely transformed into a galactic warrior – all it takes is a few brushstrokes and you’re ready to help us defeat evil mice across the galaxy.”
Lucasfilm did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Photo: Participants raise lightsabre-like pseudo-weapons at a world record-setting battle in San Francisco in 2015 (Newmindspace photo)