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Luxo sues Pixar/Disney

Poetic justice – or inevitable? The Los Angeles Times reports that the Norwegian lamp maker is suing over non contractual uses of its lamp design in merchandising and at Disney World.

UPDATE: Fellow Brewer Amid wrote about the relationship between Luxo and Pixar in his recent book The Art of Pixar Short Films. The following excerpt from the book explains that Pixar was granted permission to use the Luxo name, so the issue appears to stem from Pixar’s merchandising of the lamps:

The success of Luxo Jr. caused one unanticipated problem: Pixar had used the name of a trademarked porduct without permission. This misstep was hastily corected by Ralph Guggenheim, a veteran of NYIT and Lucasfilm, for which he headed the development of Lucas’s EditDroid editing system. Guggenheim, who joined Pixar’s animation group around the time Luxo Jr. premiered at SIGGRAPH, immediately contacted Jac Jacobsen Industries to clear the use of the name. Computer animation was so new that the Luxo representatives could not even understand what Pixar had done. “They thought we had taken two of their lamps and animated them by hand in stop motion,” said Guggenheim. The notion of computer animation was still unfathomable for most of the public. Ultimately, Pixar and Luxo reached an agreement in which Luxo could screen the film at its own trade shows and Pixar could distribute the film without restraint.

  • Sam Filstrup

    The shorts been around for what? Twenty years give or take and there just now suing them?

  • Chris Sobieniak

    Knew this would happen (and for at least 20 years at that)!

  • steveg

    …and it only took 23 years….

  • Pedro Nakama

    Well it’s about time.

  • This one doesn’t sounds like a crazy lawsuit.

    This is like if in cars they would have used Porche and all the other brands without asking permission or the Mattel toys in toystory…

  • ZigZag

    No surprise here. Pay the bill, fellas.

  • Dan

    Looks like their outlook in the first quarter is an overall decline in sales. So, how does upper management compensate for their loses? Hmm, lets sue Pixar, I’m sure that will net us a pretty decent amount of money. Sure it makes sense, but they should of thought of doing that 23 years ago. Or maybe they did and they purposely let it slide in the event of an economic downturn.

  • uncle wayne

    WHAT!? Next thing you know the “grape people” are gonna sue Fruit of the Loom!

  • Until now I thought Luxo was a fictional brand!

  • I’m a bit surprised it took this long, but it seems that the precipitating factor is that they have started to make physical products based on the Luxo lamp, as opposed to simply using a representative image of one as an animated character.

  • Fred Sparrman

    They’re manufacturing lamps and calling them “Luxo”? Um, yeah, that actually does sound like grounds for a lawsuit.

  • RAB

    Read that article more closely: this isn’t about Pixar creating the animation. This is about Disney selling lamps with the Luxo name on them that aren’t real Luxo lamps and not asking permission to do so. Considering how aggressive Disney has always been about protecting its brand and character likenesses, this is a prime example of them not feeling bound by the same rules they apply to others…and the suit is poetic justice.

  • gillaxian

    @ Chris Sobieniak & steveg

    Luxo didn’t care about the blatant infringement till Disney/Pixar started manufacturing and releasing branded physical versions of the lamp, in turn being actual infringement of the IP. If Disney/Pixar just left it as an animated character, Luxo would have been fine with it. Whoever made the decision on Disney’s side to market a physical product needs a hand-slappin’!

  • This isn’t a case of the lamp manufacturer changing their mind after several years. This stems from a Luxo Lamp gift set, including a “Luxo” lamp… that the Luxo company didn’t make.

    This seems pretty obvious to me. If you’re going to have a Luxo Lamp gift set, let the Luxo company make the lamps. Don’t use a cheap plastic knock off of the Luxo company’s real lamp design. I don’t see how Pixar/Disney are on the right side of this one.

    It would appear that someone dropped the (yellow with blue stripe and red star) ball on this one.

  • It did sort of seem inevitable.

  • doop

    Haha, wow. I was actually under the assumption that they were in some kind of agreement from the get go or something… But hey, you’d think Luxo lamps would be happy from all this free publicity from Pixar!

  • Olve

    Read the article before commenting.
    They’ve been happy with Pixar using Luxo on screen for 20 years give or take, but now we’re talking physical copies of the lamp.
    Just imagine if Luxo made a Mickey Mouse lamp (or animated short)…

  • matt

    Huh? Did you guys even read what Jerry wrote? Or the linked article? They DID have permission to use the name and distribute the film. And in the bumpers the lamp is never named. But like Jerry says, it may be to do with Pixar/Disney making a profit from merchandising physical replicas/toys. Suing over “NON-CONTRACTUAL” use. And the L.A. Times mentions the Up/Luxo Blu-ray package. Pay attention, fellas!

    Damn, because I really want that Luxo Jr lamp in the Up package! ;)

    Also, I had just assumed that the obvious thing was to have Luxo make that pack-in Lamp. Guess the Disney marketing people thought they were smarter!

  • Jay Sabicer

    Having sold Luxo lamps over 20 years ago (which are very well made, save the bracket that attaches to your table), I think an arrangement can be made. Contract Jac Jacobsen to make several hundred thousand Luxo Jrs. Have them sold at Disney locales and outside as well, with Jacobsen getting the lion’s share of the royalties.

    Win win. I personally, would LOVE having a Luxo Jr. on my desk to keep me company.

  • Wow – now I’ve heard everything.

  • This sounds like the typical story of managers making decisions without knowing all their facts, in this case a merchandising exec who wrongly assumes that everything in a Disney/Pixar film is their own property.

    A good manager would have contacted Jacobsen, as Jay already said. That would have been clever.

  • Leedar

    While I won’t excuse lazy people for not reading the post, it would have been better to illustrate with a picture of the ‘fake’ Luxo Jr lamp ( ) instead of the kosher animation.

  • Fred Sparrman

    As a side note, does anyone know if the design of the lamps in the Pixar films was based on a specific Luxo lamp? I can’t find any exact matches.

    But yeah, clearly there are many bucks to be made from marketing the Pixar lamp, and it would have been, er, *thoughtful* for Disney to include Luxo in on the deal. They deserve this lawsuit.

  • Trevor

    No sane person would sue a company for infringement until it had the money to pay out a big settlement. They probably could have done it earlier though.

  • Kyle Maloney

    I really hope they work out a deal to have Luxo make the lamps. I doubt they’ll just forget about the idea of selling a real lamp, but the one pictured doesn’t look high quality. It looks plastic when it needs to be metal. I’m sure Luxo wouldn’t skimp in this area and would make a much better version.

  • Disney is taking a step closer to being like Viacom.

  • Paul N

    The cynic in me says Disney knew exactly what they were doing: A lawsuit will take years to wend it’s way through the courts, and it’s a sure bet that the Luxo folks don’t have the kind of legal firepower that Disney does.

    In the end, Disney will make a pile of money from selling these things and probably pay less in a judgment than if they’d had to pay royalties on the lamps in the package. So (they ask) why not create a cheap knockoff?

  • The D Corporation won’t fight this.

    Their current business model is based on the exploitation of “intellectual property” -theme parks, character merchandising, pre-sold film properties, cross media teen icons. That’s why they bought Marvel. It fits perfectly in this business strategy.

    If they were to contest this suit and win, it would set a precedent that would undermine their own revenue foundations. Even lawyers can’t be that stupid.

    Most likely they’ll settle with a big mea culpa and make nice with Luxo.

  • It’s happening now because they’re actually trying to make money off their lamp by selling it for an obscene amount of cashola. Don’t get me wrong, a replica lamp would be neat, but not $200US neat, that’s for damn sure.

    They can stuff it.

  • Dave G

    It’s rather similar to Apple Computer using the “Apple” name being fine with the other Apple, the one run by the Beatles. All was fine for years UNTIL Apple Computer got into the music business, then lawsuits happened.

  • tgentry

    Yeah, this is actually a good, solid lawsuit. Can’t see Pixar/Disney winning this one, nor should they. I’m amazed they try to sell “Luxo” lamps knowing full well there’s a brand of lamps called Luxo (I didn’t know that, but I’m not Disney’s team of lawyers…)

  • FP

    Who wants a crappy plastic knockoff that costs more than a similar real Luxo?

  • Maybe a case of someone in marketing not being old enough to know that there was a Luxo before Luxo Jr?

    And never having been to an office supply store.

  • one.. they should get luxo to make ’em then sell them.. win win
    two… why the feck would you want a collectable ‘lamp’?.. it is the animators that make it jump about and bounce on the ball for the amusement of onlookers. This is just a lamp, no inquisitive child like charming behaviour will be observed after you shell out for it.

  • Tim Hodge

    Lasseter once said (many years ago) that they tried to partner with Luxo to produce a Luxo, Jr. Lamp based on the design they made for the film. For whatever reason (lack of a market or too expensive to produce), the Junior lamps were never manufactured.

  • Can’t they just appreciate all the sales they made due to this short? Greedy lamp makers.

  • George

    Not excusing Disney/Pixar on this one, but…

    The lamps in Luxo Jr. are based off of the Luxo L1 series of lamps. If you look at it, you’ll see the very apparent similarities, but also some difference. A real Luxo L1 has a very round hood, always has. The Pixar “Luxo” has a flared hood, perhaps to give the lamp more character. A real Luxo L1 has a bracket that allow you to attach the lamp to the end of a flat surface, like a desk or table, Luxo sells attachable bases for the L1’s, but they look different than the bases in the short. Lastly, Luxo doesn’t make a lamp the size of Luxo Jr.

    The gift pack Luxo Jr. has a “bulb” that cannot be removed, and it’s made of plastic, it’s essentially a toy (a pretty expensive one to boot). It’s not really a functioning lamp, rather a toy based off the Luxo Jr. character from the animated short that used Luxo’s L1 series lamp as inspiration. The Pixar contract with Luxo was for use of the name, that’s it, the issue of likeness of the product never came into play.

    I honestly feel Disney/Pixar should make good on this, however, they’re making a toy with the name of a lamp that they have the right to use the name of, and that kinda looks like the lamp it’s named after.

  • Chris Sobieniak

    Thanks to a few here who clarified the situation for me, especially Leedar who posted the faux Luxo Jr. lamp Disney’s putting out. I will gladly avoid buying this if I plan to buy the film soon! Jac Jacobsen & Co. deserve to make these instead. I did wonder what models they were representing (if once available at the time, or else created based on an existing model by the Pixar team when they made the short film back then).

  • The lawyers had this one figured out years ago.

  • Chris Sobieniak

    Thanks for the info George. I’d rather the Pixar fans who build their Wall-E’s last year should go and replicate the lamps too just to show off (I wouldn’t mind paying for a pair of both lamps from the short to go with a desk in my house)!

  • …And they sell it without the ball?


  • matt

    Didn’t Disney try to put one over on the family of E.H. Shepard (or maybe it was A.A. Milne) about a decade ago? The family was suing for royalties or something, but Disney argued that their Pooh was different to the original so they didn’t need to pay royalties or something? This when Pooh was their biggest revenue earner (I think the Princesses have overtaken it since then but anyway we’re talking billions).

    I’m not trying to stir up trouble and this is only my recollection, so if someone can put me right on this that’d be great. All I’m saying is, massive profits and marketing opportunities usually win over royalty payments. Just ask Bob Shaye, who tried to put advertising on Warner/New Line’s own network as a loss, non-payment of royalties to both the Tolkien estate (!), not paying merchandising royalties to actors, and even deducting production offices for OTHER N.L. films (that was a new one to me). Also not paying Peter Jackson what was agreed, with the excuse that they’d already paid him a lot! Never mind the films making 6 billion theatrically!

    I hope even if the defence is that the Luxo Jr toy (where are people getting $200 from? I see a ‘street price’ of $120 on Amazon which includes the Up bd movie as well – TBers wouldn’t ironically be gilding the lily would they?!) isn’t the same as anything Luxo sells and therefore doesn’t infringe, that they admit trying to put one over on Luxo and work this out.

  • Fred Sparrman

    Okay, so does the thing light up or not? Is it really a “lamp” (as it says on the box) or a non-illuminating toy in the shape of a lamp? I’d say that has some bearing on the lawsuit.

    And if they’re calling something a “lamp” and it doesn’t actually light up, they could have another type of lawsuit on their hands.

  • FP

    It’s a “lamp replica”, or lamprika.

  • Whether it lights or not has no bearing on the case.

    This is a clear case of “Trading on the brand” which is the simple first test in copyright/trademark infringement suits.

  • jip

    It would be fun if Disney got away with this.
    Then I’m gonna make a cartoon about an iPod, produce my own iPods, and sell them to everyone who wants them!
    Im gonna be RICH!!!

  • AZ

    That Suxo.