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Is the Pixar ball design copyrighted?

by Ratan Srivastava
Pixar ball

Luxo AS (Luxo), a Norwegian lighting firm that created the desktop lamp that inspired the Pixar logo, has launched a trademark infringement lawsuit against Pixar and the Walt Disney Company.

Luxo has been designing and manufacturing desk lights for sale in the United States since 1939, according to the complaint. Luxo’s product line comprises a variety of spring-balanced work lights, including the LUXO L-1 and LS desklamps, which have sold over 25 million units globally. The Museum of Modern Art claims to have one of the lights in its permanent collection.

For many, what Luxo referred to it as the “trade dress” of their desk light has also become associated with Pixar’s much-loved emblem, which appears at the start of all of the company’s movies. Pixar’s founder, John Lasseter, is said to have said that his Luxo light was the idea for such company’s distinctive figure. Furthermore, two Luxo-inspired lights, a father and son playing with such a ball, appeared in Pixar’s debut film, a two-minute silent animation named “Luxo Jr,” released in 1986.

Despite what appeared to be a cordial relationship between the two firms throughout the years, Luxo filed a case with such a New York district court on September 3rd. Luxo claims that Pixar has infringed on its trade marks (US trade marks 0778106 and 1314484 for the work and typed drawing of the word “Luxo”) for the first time because I the Pixar logo made no express reference to the name “Luxo” and (ii) no actual lamps had been created using the LUXO trade mark prior to the launch of the special edition lamps in August 2009.

Luxo is concerned that using the “Luxo” name would lead customers to assume that perhaps the Disney lamps are manufactured by (or otherwise linked with) Luxo. According to the firm, the Disney lights are of much worse quality than its own, and hence their distribution is likely to cause injury. According to the lawsuit, Pixar’s “near full expropriation” of the LUXO trade mark will lead customers to conclude that Luxo is either infringing on Pixar’s trade mark or is a Pixar licensee.

Luxo is seeking a court order barring Pixar from making and selling any lamp, or any other product, carrying the Luxo trade mark, as well as a monetary award based on Pixar’s earnings as from infringing lights.

Luxo’s allowing, or to at least tolerance of Pixar’s 20-year usage of the animated Luxo-inspired light in its emblem then under the name, would be fascinating to see how the US court views it.

Also Read: What technology did each Pixar movie test out?

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