News & Events

Intellectual Property & Film

29 June 2016 | Posted in News

This year to celebrate the world-famous Aardman Animations studios incredible 40th anniversary we have launched an exciting new competition.
 
This year’s competition has a strong focus on the film industry and intellectual property; copyright, trade marks, designs and patents. Depending on your age, we’re asking you to create a storyboard displaying Wallace and Gromit’s birthday trip to outer space, design a birthday gift that Shaun the Sheep can present to Timmy or generate a short animation involving Morph! But where does IP fit into film I hear you ask? The answer is everywhere.
 
The most common form of Intellectual Property that protects our favourite films is copyright. Copyright is an automatic right and protects your work by stopping others from using it without your permission. In film-making, it protects a range of different aspects not just the finished film; the script, the music, images, as well as rights in the performance are also protected. Copyright in film would usually last 70 years from the end of the calendar year in which the last principal director, author or composer dies.
 
As well as copyright, trade marks can also play a big part in the success of a film. Trade marks like MGM’s famous lion (who’s roar is also a trade mark), or Pixar’s energetic little desk lamp bouncing around the screen tell us what company made the film. By registering the name of the film itself production companies can offer licences that allow others to create lucrative merchandise. Films such as Disney’s “Mulan” and “HARRY POTTER AND THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX” are both protected by trade marks.
 
In some films, you’ll find some product placement where big company’s pay to have their product advertised; an example of this is in Michael Bay’s ‘Transformers’ where certain games consoles and mobile phones transform into mammoth robots. To give you an idea of the money this makes, 2013 blockbuster Man of Steel earned an incredible £110,841,705 even before it was released.
 
Registered designs also have an important role in maximising revenue from merchandising. Star Wars filmmaker George Lucas didn’t bank on losing a battle over the design of the famous Stormtrooper helmets in 2011. 
 
The Stormtrooper character first appeared in the film Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope and  was conceived by George Lucas, designed by artist Ralph McQuarrie, sculpted by from Liz Moore and Brian Muir, before finally moulded by British model maker Andrew Ainsworth. 
 
Ainsworth later spent years selling replica helmets long after the film was released before being challenged by Lucas for infringing copyright (if the object were a sculpture, it would have been protected by copyright lasting much longer than a design right). The court however ruled that the helmet was protect by a design right and not copyright and Ainsworth won his David and Goliath style battle. 
 
Patents also have their place as most films produced today use an array of technology. Before 1888 the world hadn’t been introduced to the video camera and each development that video camera made since is protected by a patent. 
 
In 1995 Toy Story became the first CGI feature-length animation to use Computer Generated Images (CGI). Numerous patents protect the technology behind CGI helping to improve special effects and bring science fiction, fantasy and more recently super-hero films to life.
 
Intellectual property is vital to the film industry and if properly protected the film, and associated merchandise, can make huge amounts of money around the world. This in turn encourages further investment that secures jobs and encourage creativity and talent. 
 
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