The High Court recently handed down Judgment in the matter of Marc John -v- Lucasfilm Ltd. LLC and Lucasfilm Entertainment Company Ltd. LLC, the owners of the intellectual property in the Star Wars franchise (the Defendants).
Gordon Dadds was instructed by Marc John (the Claimant) regarding a claim for unlawful interference with contract which related to an agreement to film and broadcast an independent Star Wars fan convention which took place in Manchester in December 2015, shortly before the release of Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens.
The background to the claim was that in July 2015, the Claimant entered into an agreement with the convention organiser to film the convention and broadcast it live to cinemas as an Event Cinema production.
However, in August of 2015, the Defendants contacted the convention organiser alleging past and prospective infringements of their proprietary rights in the Star Wars franchise relating to the convention. The Defendants issued several ultimatums and demanded various undertakings from the convention organiser concerning the convention to allow it to go ahead, including an undertaking not to allow the Claimant to make a film of the event. This was despite the Claimant having notified the Defendants of the existence of his agreement to film the convention.
Ultimately, the undertakings were signed by the convention organiser and the Claimant was not permitted access to film the event. The Claimant brought proceedings against the Defendants for the loss of a chance to earn profit from the abortive film and broadcast.
The Defendants defended the claim on the basis, among other things, that there was no binding agreement to allow the Claimant to film the convention but rather a conditional and non-binding plan to do so or alternatively that it was an implied term of the agreement that either party could terminate if the Defendants’ approval of the film could not be obtained or in the absence of adequate numbers of commitments from cinemas. The Defendants further asserted that the Claimant and convention organiser had in any event agreed to rescind the agreement.
The High Court found that there was no basis for implying a term into the Agreement that required a third party’s approval to broadcast or film the convention – such a term was neither necessary to give business efficacy to the agreement nor so obvious as to go without saying. The Court further found that the Claimant and event organiser had not agreed to rescind this Agreement, rather that the agreement had been repudiated by the convention organiser by its refusal to allow the Claimant to film the event further to the Defendants’ required undertakings.
The Court further rejected that Defendants’ contentions that a broadcast of the film would have generated insufficient revenue to cover its costs. The Court found that there was a real and substantial chance that the film would have generated significant revenues of over £200,000. The Court found that the Claimant stood to earn a net profit of £39,504 and the Court valued his lost chance accordingly. Interest was awarded.