Legal Current is observing May the 4th – inspired by a pun of the iconic Star Wars phrase, “May the force be with you” – by exploring Westlaw data for insights on the beloved franchise. An examination of Westlaw data across judicial opinions, trademark registrations, and secondary sources shows the impact Star Wars has made on the legal profession.

Below is an overview, powered by our love of the film series and Westlaw, of Star Wars references in the legal space. (A Westlaw subscription is required to access this content.)

Judicial opinions: Briefs include a wealth of Star Wars references, with Darth Vader being the most popular citation. The villain is referenced in a range of situations, including when an individual is described as a bully, when a criminal wears a Darth Vader mask while committing a crime, and when the facts of the case include a twist of some sort, sometimes invoking the “Luke, I am your father” quote.

In addition, The Empire Strikes Back movie as well as Jedi mind tricks are frequently referenced in briefs. The latter is cited in instances where litigators may be trying to outsmart an opponent or sneak something questionable by a judge.

By the numbers, Westlaw data shows 90 hits for briefs referencing Darth Vader, 40 for Jedi mind trick, 18 for Obi-Wan Kenobi, and 12 for Princess Leia/Organa.

Secondary sources: Westlaw also includes extensive secondary content, where legal professionals have applied Star Wars puns and characters’ quotes to topics ranging from cloud computing to copyright infringement. Westlaw data shows more than 2,700 Star Wars hits across secondary sources.

The Empire Strikes Back is often leveraged in law review articles and titles. In the Kansas Bar Journal, Cloud City – a notable location in The Empire Strikes Back – was given a nod in The Move to Cloud City: The Benefits and Risks of Cloud Computing. The Chicago-Kent Journal of Intellectual Property also paid tribute to The Empire Strikes Back, featuring Han Solo’s memorable quip to C-3PO, “Never tell me the odds,” in Never Tell Me the Odds: How to Avoid Infringement When Alluding to Copyrighted Works in Branding.

In addition, Westlaw data shows more than 80 secondary sources featuring General Dodonna’s now-famous line, “May the force be with you.” And it may be reassuring to know that Westlaw data reveals  only 14 secondary sources pay homage to Darth Vader’s “power of the dark side.”

Trademarks: Westlaw data shows that more than 250 Star Wars federal trademarks are owned by Disney, doing business as Lucasfilm. (Star Wars trademarks are owned by Lucasfilm, which Disney acquired in 2012.) Of course, each new Star Wars character or weapon means a new trademark registration. Early trademark registrations include Darth Vader, C-3PO, and the lightsaber – all filed in 1977 – with more recent registrations including Kylo Ren, filed in 2014, and the Mandalorian, filed in 2018.

Special thanks and credit to Reference Attorney Consultant Patrick Yatchak for his Westlaw research and Star Wars insight.

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