Imagine a world where the sky is the limit and cars can take off from a vertical launching pad, shooting straight up into the heavens. If you’re a Star Wars fan, this type of technological advancement doesn’t seem far fetched: it’s the T-65 X-Wing Starfighter. And for Joseph Alfred, it doesn’t seem like an idea incapable of grasping here on this planet. So why on Earth did Alfred sue the Walt Disney Co. in Delaware’s Court of Chancery? Because Disney wouldn’t accept his idea to build a real flying car. Make sense? The court didn’t think so either, and shot his plans down.
The court dismissed the case for two main reasons: a lack of jurisdiction and failure to state a claim for which relief could be granted. (A mighty Mickey thanks to the Hollywood Reporter Esq. for posting the case decision online).
None of the parties in the suit, including Alfred, had applicable legal ties to Delaware. Alfred tried his luck since Disney is a Delaware corporation. But the court also dismissed the case because of the absence of a claim. Meaning?
Disney has a trademark in the design for a T-65 X-Wing Starfighter plane depicted in Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. This means, basically, that only Disney can make anything that can easily be confused with its flying car, otherwise the other guy will be in for some major Mickey disapproval. Alfred asserted that a company that he pulled out of the air, Terrafugia, could build an actual T-65 X-Wing since they were all award-winning, MIT-trained aerospace engineers. Turns out, Alfred had no affiliation with Terrafugia, and the company wasn’t even a party to the suit. With this idea in mind, all Alfred wanted was Disney to consent to letting them do so, and a little Disney magic advertisement, like during a big-stakes college football game on ESPN.
But, even with Alfred’s sky high expectations — and it’s clear from the video accompanying this post that folks take Star Wars stuff pretty seriously — what’s with the Death Star-style action of a lawsuit? Alfred knew Disney’s policy is to decline unsolicited phone calls, unless they mean business. And for some reason, Disney seems to have accepted this one. After the call, Disney’s attorney told him no deal; Alfred, though, already had decided he had an implied in fact contract with Disney. To have a contract, there must be an offer, and an acceptance of the offer, and consideration. He certainly pitched an offer, but Disney firmly rejected it. If Disney was telling him to go fly a kite, why’s he still fighting?
Because everyone loves Disney of course. Alfred said that, if the plane were built to look like Disney’s trademarked Star Wars craft, the public would want it. Demand it. Fund it, even. Alfred threw around some accusations that officers of Disney interrupted this opportunity to “benefit humanity.”
The court recalled how Robert Fulton was mocked for his steamboat and Galileo was scorned for his theories about the universe. If Alfred’s on to something with a flying car, he should keep on keeping on, the court said, noting: “… the Plaintiff should persevere; it reportedly took Edison over a thousand attempts to create the light bulb before he struck upon the carbon filament.”
And in the words of Walt Disney, “If you can dream it, you can do it.”