Celebrity Invention: George Lucas's Action Figures


Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for patentsrichfamous_280(2).jpgSome celebrities aren't just pretty faces. A few of them are also touched with that Yankee prowess for tinkering and invention. In this weekly series, we introduce you to the Patents of the Rich and Famous. And maybe you learn a little bit about how patent literature works along the way.

Inventor: George Lucas

Known For: Oh, you know, creating the Star Wars franchise, which lucky Wars Heads -- for lack of a universally accepted moniker like Trekkies, we refer to Star Wars loving folk as "Wars Heads" -- will get to see on the big screen again, in 3-D!

Also, that Indiana Jones series.

And, as if that weren't mind-blowing enough, his film production company -- Lucas Film -- had a hand in creating the behemoth animation studio: Pixar.

Everything he touches, even thinks about, turns to movie making gold. Of course he invented something cool.

Lucas1.jpgInvented Apparatus: A "toy action figure", a "toy vehicle," and some other "toy figures"

Lucas2.jpgAlong with the more notable Star Wars characters, like C-3PO and Yoda, he patented minor Star Wars stars Boba Fett -- the bounty hunter hired by Darth Vader to find the Millennium Falcon -- and the AT-AT walkers featured in the Empire Strikes Back fight scene, which took place on the ice-planet Hoth.

Rationale Behind Invention: OK, so a toy patent seems kind of lame, especially ones of such obscure characters. But, further analysis demonstrates the method behind Lucas's genius. He didn't patent just any old figurines. He could have stuck with Han Solo, Darth Vader or even Wan Li (that kid from Indiana Jones), but he went beyond that, patenting a character with about five lines and a robot that Luke Skywalker defeats by wrapping a cord around its mechanical legs.

Especially with Boba Fett, Lucas knew what he was doing. This minor character not only has a patent, but also has a major following. Boba Fett's action figure ranks as the third most expensive Star Wars collectible toy -- just after the 1978 "Telescoping Lightsaber" Darth Vader worth $6,000 and the 1978 Vinyl Cape Jawa valued at $2,000.

Not bad for a dude who was accidentally killed by a blind Han Solo.

Off-Label Uses: You can't play with those things, they're collectibles! They're for shelves and plastic cases only.

Future Directions: Turn Boba Fett into an artificially intelligent, animatronic figurine. Imagine: an action figure as your best friend, who searches the galaxy for smugglers that have wronged you and then brings them back frozen in carbonite so that they can then act as your favorite decoration.

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Rebecca Greenfield is a writer based in Brooklyn. She was formerly on staff at The Atlantic Wire.

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