Stormtroopers in The Supreme Court

The Supreme Court of the United Kingdom, successor of the world-renowned House of Lords, is the highest court of the land, it passes judgement on only matters of the highest legal importance. Cases heard within these walls call upon counsel of the highest caliber and, in turn, are heard by some of the most educated and respected ears within the legal world. Not a place for a “Micky Mouse dispute”, then.

Therefore, as fans would no doubt agree, the dispute over Stormtrooper helmet design between Lucasfilms and Shepperton Design Studios could be litigated in no other court.

And, who better to represent George Lucas’s Lucasfilm than he who is described as one of the most sought after advocates in the country, Jonathan Sumption QC (Brick Court Chambers). Sumption’s curriculum vitae would make any barrister green with envy, he’s representing billionaire tycoon Roman Abramovich in an ongoing dispute, and is off to sit as a judge in the Supreme Court, need I say more?

So, why the battle? Shepperton Design Studios (hereinafter “SDS”) is an unauthorised manufacturer of replica Star Wars memorabilia, including the Stormtrooper helmet. The dispute in fact began in 2006 in the U.S. when Lucasfilm filed a claim that SDS has infringed a copyright by manufacturing these helmets and further claimed that SDS had made false claims relating to the moulds and their status – SDS did not defend the decision and awarded Lucasfilm $20 million. The case was argued in the High Court of Justice to ensure the U.S. decision would have effect in the English jurisdiction.

It was assumed the Supreme Court case would be a sure win for Lucasfilm after it had been thrown out by Mr Justice Mann in the High Court, after all, it was in the capable hands of Jonathan Sumption QC. Sadly not, the Supreme Court in 2011 held that the helmet design was not a work of art or sculpture but indeed an industrial prop, shortening the length of copyright protection to 15 years after it was first marketed.   The case was pivotal around SDS’s claim that the helmet was an industrial design, as opposed to a work of art, and as such not bound by Lucasfilm’s copyright.

As it has been dubbed, on this occasion, “[t]he force is not with Sumption”.


Death Penalty for Hosni Mubarak?

Until his resignation on the 11th of February 2011 Hosni Mubarak had worn Egypt’s Presidential shoes for near 30 years. His first term as President began after the assassination of Former President Anwar El Sadat in 1981, prior to which Muba

rak was Vice President. However, now standing trial in a temporary court in the Police Academy in North Cairo, Mubarak, along with his two sons, a senior Minister, and six senior police officials, faces the prospect of being sentenced to the death penalty for ordering the killing of protesters during the revolution in 2011 that demanded his resignation.

Mubarak’s rule as President makes for a relatively eventful calendar. Among the main highlights were Egypt being allowed to re-join the Arab League following its removal through a peace treaty made by Sadat with Israel; and Egypt’s toke

n participation in the 1991 Gulf War where the U.S. commended its participation for inducing other Arab countries to join the plight for liberalising Kuwait.
o his government ministers. However, not all of Mubarak’s rule has been sprinkled with commendation. He has received criticism for his military background dominating his governing strategy, writer Tarek Osman links Mubarak’s former military career in the air force and his witnessing of Sadat’s assassination as the reason Mubarak focused the early years of his ruling on expanding the security services, and Mubarak has also been criticised dearly on several occasions for choosing the advice of his military chiefs as opposed t

The revolution in 2011 was a tense and uneasy affairs, as one expe

cts a resolution to be. Mubarak refused to resign but promised not to stand for election at the next term in September, with this came comments of constitutional change. Yet, none of this seemed to satisfy protesters who still demanded he leave. Protests outside the presidential palace turned violent between pro and anti-Mubarak Egyptians. It is during this time it is claimed that Mubarak authorised (or ordered) his former interior minister, Habib el-Adly (also standing trial) to use live ammunition to deter protesters. To date Mubarak has pleaded “not guilty” to his allegations on trials broadcast on Egyptian state TV. Prosecutor, Mustafa Khatar, claims it is impossible for Mubarak to have been unaware of of the killings on
protesters that became global news. On the prospect of Mubarak being sentenced to death if found guilty it is apt to end with the words of the prosecutor: “Retribution is the solution. Any fair judge must issue a death sentence for these defendants,” (Khatar, final day of prosecution opening statement).

Iran – Oil Embargo

Embargos on Iranian oil are not a new phenomenon, the Clinton Administration enacted the Iran-Libya Sanctions Act (now Iran Sanctions Act) in 1995 (ISA) following discontent regarding Iran’s stepped up nuclear program and support of terrorist organisations such as Hizbollah and Hamas. The US has recently accused Iran of plotting to assassinate a senior Saudi diplomat in Washington and taken trade sanctions against Iran’s Central Bank. As of the end of 2011 Europe has added to the count of countries no longer deeming it acceptable to trade in matters such as oil with Iran – a measure which is likely to be passed by the end of this first month of 2012.

Iran’s nuclear programme was established in the 1950s and until relatively recently continued to recieve support from both the U.S. and Europe, major players in the area, though not oil-rich themselves. The European embargo came after concerns were raised following a report released in November 2011 claiming Iran was developing and researching for nuclear weapons capabilities. Notably, as Iran is not a member of the World Trade Organisation, it merely began accession negotiations in earlier years, the legality of the measure in the WTO is not an issue.

Is the measure likely to be effective? Whether an embargo will prevent the controverisial is a matter of speculation. However, the impact of the trade sanction shall in the least be persuasive. Iran relies on oil for over 20% of its GDP, furthermore, during the aftermath of the ISA it was noted that the onshore oil plants within Iran were in great need of investment in order to modernise the equipment and as such further strains on an alreadt “needy” sector will not be welcomed, and may even stir up some political unrest within Iran.

The consequences: Proposers of the embargo have said that oil supply is unlikely to suffer due to the number of oil-rich country who also oppose Iranian nuclear who would be willing to supply oil to Europe in order to hit Iran further. Complications are already immenent as Italy and Greece, two very vulnerable European countries, are major buyers of Iranian oil and this embargo could further damage growth if oil levels sink and prices rocket. Iranian defense officials have targetted Western ships and to that extent have passed a bill requiring Western ships to seek permission from Tehran when travelling through the Strait of Hormuz, a key route for oil cargo ships. The U.S. has not commented further from saying it is fighting to keep international waters free.

There is no doubt that trade sanctions are amongt the most effective tool for encouraging certain activity on an international level, however, in the light of recent retaliations to Western action, it remains to be seen whether this issue will be clear cut or lead to a potentially devastating diplomatic battle.

iPhone 5 Rumours

the iPhone and smart phones in general have taken the world by storm. When the iPhone 4s made its debut earlier this year shoppers, though disappointed that the it wasn’t the 5 and the design remained the same, were again queuing to get their hands on Apple’s latest software. What to expect from the new model? Rumour has it the new phone will have a larger, 4 inch scream – a dilemma for app producers who will need to adjust their software to make it compatible. Rumours of a faster processor and a redesign of the wretched antenna which caused so many problems are on the cards. Apart from that, as expected, Apple’s directors are playing on the suspense they can created and we can but wait till its anticipated release in 2012.

Kim Jong-Il’s Funeral

So, North Korea is the latest country to lose a leader. It’s been quite a shakeup of the world politics recently, Libya saw a bloody end to the regime of Gaddafi, February 2011 saw the fall of President Hosni Mubarak, 2010 marked a change in British politics from a Labour-led government to the Conservatives, and who can forget the assassination of terrorist leader Usama Bin Laden? But, what does this mean for the world? Pictures across the media today show North Koreans weeping uncontrollably at the death of what many called “the Father”, but, whilst it is difficult to declare with any great certainty the human rights record of NK due to its secretive nature, are North Koreans suffering from “Stockholm syndrome”? Have they really grown to love their oppressor? Many think not!

Euro Bonds – Italy Sailing in the Right Direction?

European Bonds – is Italy heading in the right direction? Italy has dominated much of the European crisis related news recently. However, are there signs of things easing? Italy raised 7 billions-euros at auction for its debt at rates that are marginally lower than before (dropping from 7.89 to 5.82% for 3-year bonds and an even more marginal drop for 10-year bonds). However, markets have not rejoiced at this. In fact, the Euro is trading at a 10 year low compared to the Yen, the strength of the Yen hence causing Asian markets to wobble. But, much is to be owed to the European Central Bank providing a large pot of loan capital to European Banks at around half the recent interest rate, the liquidity has said to have encouraged demand to buy up Italian debt. So, Italy’s debt is in demand and bond yields have dropped slightly, but is this enough? It has been noted that Italy’s problem is not predominantly the lack of trade, in fact, Italy trades well with luxury goods exported at high prices, Italy’s problem is in fact to do with its “welfare oriented economy”, meaning it spends too much. So, the recently approval given to Prime Minister Mario Monti’s deficit reducing plan by Parliament could in fact be damaging. Monti’s plan seeks to levy a high tax on luxury goods and primary residences and increase the cost of fuel. Many claim such measures will deepen Italian cuts and led the country into a further recession. Much is to be seen.