Disney Sues Developer of Mobile Sabacc Game
Star Wars is one of the most beloved mega franchises in history, and even people who have never seen any of the movies or the animated shows are likely to know terms like Jedi, the Force, and Darth Vader. They are more than just pop culture; they are a part of modern parlance in many places around the world. Of course, when a franchise grows so large, it is important to make sure that they are protecting their properties. In the past, Lucasfilm has been relatively open regarding fan creations, as long as they are not made to be sold. Disney has, for the most part, been on board with this same outlook.
Why Did Disney Sue?
However, when someone attempts to make money from the franchise without becoming a licensee, there will be trouble. It was just a couple of years ago that Disney found itself in this predicament. They had to file a lawsuit against developers of a mobile game. The game in question was called Sabacc, and as fans of Star Wars are well aware, this is a card game that exists in the universe. It is the game that Han Solo plays against Lando to win the Millennium Falcon, and it is tightly connected to the franchise.
The developer of the app, Ren Ventures, tried to trademark the name during their development of the game, but Disney requested that the trademark be canceled. They believed, and rightly so, that it could cause confusion. Lucasfilm had never trademarked the name, but instead simply used Star Wars as a trademark that was meant to include all things created under the license.
If you are thinking that the game developer simply chose a random name by mistake or coincidence, you would be wrong. Not only is the name the same, but the rules to the game are the same rules that were outlined in novels set in the Star Wars universe. It appears that the developers knew full and well what they were doing and were hoping to make money based on the relationship to Star Wars.
Interestingly, the developers of the game sued Lucasfilm for using the term Sabaac when they were promoting their film Solo: A Star Wars Story. They wanted to force the company to remove mention of Sabacc from their marketing materials. Ren Ventures also sued Denny’s because the restaurant was offering collectible trading cards based on the card game from Star Wars. This worked for them in some circumstances, as Lucasfilm did remove the word in certain locations, such as their own card game.
In 2018, a judge ruled that the app does violate Disney’s copyright because it was mentioned enough times in Star Wars materials. Ren Ventures tried to argue that because there were GIFs online of other material from Star Wars there weren’t challenged by Lucasfilm that they did not believe they would be challenged. The judge did not agree with their argument.
The entire case, especially the countersuit by the app developer, is interesting and on the stranger side of things. Since they used the same rules for the game that were outlined in the novel, it is highly unlikely that this was all mere coincidence. Instead, it appears that a company saw that Lucasfilm did not trademark the word Sabacc and thought that this would be enough to hold up in a court of law despite it being a well-known term in the Star Wars universe. This should be a lesson to others that attempt to take copyrighted information, which it would have been since they were published in novels, and try to use it as their own… especially against Disney.