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Indiana Jones and the Backpack of Litigiousness

by | Aug 9, 2023 | Intellectual Property, Trademark

If you have seen the new Indiana Jones movie – Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny – you might have noticed that Harrison Ford is sporting a particular backpack in the film. Actually, you probably did not notice it because you were too busy paying attention to the actual movie.

But Frost River noticed, and recently they filed a suit in California federal court accusing Lucasfilm of violating federal trademark law by using their products in the film without permission – and then engaging in a campaign that seemingly tries to pass off those products as being created by clothing company Filson.

Raiders of Federal Trademark Law

According to the lawsuit, Lucasfilm not only used the knapsack in their movie, but removed identifying marks – an act that, if true, would violate federal trademark law. Such things are not unheard of in the entertainment world. However, their alleged brazenness did not stop there.

The suit goes on to detail how Lucasfilm then worked with clothing maker Filson to create a commercial using clips from the movie interspersed with video clips of people wearing Filson apparel, clearly intimating that the clothing in the film is from Filson. Frost River’s smoking gun? A clip from that commercial that features the backpack they argue is their Geologist Pack.

The Last Crusade for Lucasfilm and Filson?

If Frost River is able to prove their allegations, these are fairly serious violations by Lucasfilm and Filson, and Frost River would likely win a large jury verdict. It is difficult to believe that it would impact Lucasfilm that much, however. It is not uncommon for entertainment properties to face these kinds of lawsuits, and they are typically seen as more of a nuisance than anything else. Filson may be hit harder.  

The real question here – again, if Frost River’s allegations prove true – is how the people involved could have allowed something like this to happen. A big movie like Indiana Jones employs hundreds of crew members, actors, marketing teams and so on as part of the process. Did none of them realize that what they were doing violated IP law? Is it possible they thought no one would notice?

If nothing else, this is a lesson for anyone out there aspiring to make movies or television who does not have the deep pockets of Lucasfilm: take great care with what you put on screen. Other companies’ products cannot be used without permission, and if you get caught, you might find yourself facing a destiny of trouble.


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