Gen Con LLC sued by LucasFilm LLC

Eriq Gardner at The Hollywood Reporter, Esq broke the news on January 14th that LucasFilm was suing Gen Con, LLC. This news didn’t make it to the gaming world until a few days ago in February, when GamingReport picked it up and other sites began discussing it.

Unfortunately, The Reporter’s summary of the lawsuit [which was filed on January 8th, 2008] was a little terse, and various postings around the ‘net have distorted the case and claimed false things — all of which could be avoided if people had actually read the brief complaint. A fair number of people are saying that Gen Con owes $1,000,000 to Make-a-Wish foundation, and no reading of the lawsuit bears that to be true.

As I read it [and I bounced the complaint and the bullet points over to a legal pal of mine for clarification — thanks Daniel!], the complaints levied against Gen Con LLC are pretty simple:

  • Gen Con LLC entered in an agreement — the “Fan Convention Agreement” — to run Star Wars Celebration IV in May 2007. They paid a non-refundable advance, but Lucasfilm alleges that they did not follow through with proper quarterly accounting statements nor payment, and Lucasfilm is seeking approx. $500,000 in compensatory damages plus interest.
  • Gen Con LLC entered in a second agreement — the “Auction Agreement” — in which Lucasfilm agreed to provide items to the auction, with the proceeds of the auction going to the Make-a-Wish foundation. It is not entirely clear from the lawsuit if all of the auction proceeds or just those from the Lucasfilm archives were intended for Make-a-Wish.#1 Lucasfilm is seeking approx. $150,000 in compensatory damages, plus approx $150,000 in pecuniary restitution, plus interest on both. In other words: they want the money that would have gone to Make-a-Wish foundation, and they they want to be paid for the merchandise that Gen Con allegedly auctioned off inappropriately.
  • Lucasfilm is further asking for punitive damages to be proven at trial.
  • Lucasfilm is also seeking pre-judgement interest plus the cost of the lawsuit.
  • Lucasfilm has asked for trial by jury on all claims that may be tried by a jury. My understanding is that this is done because a jury trial is more expensive, and thus more likely to force Gen Con to settle, and due to the nature of the donations — the average person isn’t going to look kindly on anyone ripping off a major charity.

That’s the skinny: approx $800,000 in various damages, plus potentially more.

#1: Based on the following quote at It’s a Hit: A Record-Breaking Celebration IV, I’m led to believe that the Lucasfilm-owned items were the majority or the only items available at the auction:

Fans were a huge part of the success of Celebration IV, contributing to programming and events especially in the Fan Fair Hall and on the Star Wars Fan Stage. Star Wars collectors raised nearly $170,000 in four silent auctions and one live auction of vintage toy merchandise from the Lucas Licensing archives. The profits from the auction will be donated to the Make-A-Wish foundation.

Thursday, Feb 24th edit: My bad; the name of the blog I linked to is The Hollywood Reporter, Esq. Also, the proper name of the suit is “Lucasfilm Ltd v. Gen Con LLC”


  1. Gen Con Files for Chapter 11

    SEATTLE (February 15, 2008) Gen Con LLC announced today that it has filed for Chapter 11 protection in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the State of Washington. This action became necessary as a result of significant unforeseen expenses associated with attempts to expand its core business to encompass externally licensed events. Gen Con’s flagship show, Gen Con Indy, remains a vibrant, profitable event. Gen Con Indy will take place as scheduled August 14–17, 2008, in Indianapolis, Indiana.

  2. Excellent analysis; I’m getting here after Google sent me to OgreCave for info on the suit in relation to GenCon’s Chapter 11 filing yesterday. It seems that the Ch.11 filing is a defensive measure precipitated by this suit.

    My prediction: Look for Gen Con LLC to settle quietly (and for far less than the $800K++) sometime in the next year, and then move on with the reorganization. Gen Con LLC is having some issues (SoCal was a bust, there’s less dealer room this year due to ICC construction, etc), but it’s still a damned good con.

  3. Apollo: The lawsuit alleges that in addition to not paying Lucasfilm money that they owed them for the Star Was Celebration IV convention, that Gen Con LLC auctioned off goods that Lucasfilm owned, said the profits would be going to charity, and then never paid the charity.

    While I hope for the best for Gen Con — as a company and as a convention that I enjoy attending every year — this clearly seems like a case where Lucasfilm was wronged. They may have a lot of money, but that doesn’t give someone the right to [allegedly, and almost certainly unintentionally] bilk them out of their property and owed money.

  4. Well, Lucas DID give us Jar Jar Binks, and pick Jake Lloyd AND Hayden Christiansen to play Anakin Skywalker, so to even those atrocities out, I think Lucasarts should pay Make-a-wish the $800k and call it a wash…

  5. Good grief! Read the summary — the vast majority of the monies asked for in the lawsuit has nothing to do with the Make-a-Wish Foundation.

  6. IANAL (yet)

    Just FYI, the demand for jury trial is fairly standard as an initial demand. Assuming that a jury trial is permissible, you always ask for a jury trial during your complaint or else you waive your right to the trial. The cost of a jury trial isn’t considerably more expensive than a bench trial – it isn’t like either side is being asked to pay for the jurors!

    Almost every complaint (which is really just one side of the story and typically lays things out as far towards one side as possible) (if believed in its entirety) should make it seem that the side filing the complaint is entirely right. If that was true, LucasFilms would just ask for a summary judgment (or maybe even a directed verdict before discovery) and GenCon would lose.

    The Chapter 11 filing is just smart business – protect yourself from a possible negative judgment before it happens, especially if you are not sure you might have enough funds to fight the fight. After all, it isn’t like that Chapter 11 will protect you against any possible future settlement (as now that LucasFilms knows that you have entered Chapter 11, any settlement will probably require that, once GenCon exits Chapter 11, GenCon repay the full amount of the settlement, as their funding allows).

    Assuming GenCon is going to fight this, I would expect to see a counter-suit and maybe a slander/libel suit for damaging their professional reputation (of course, this also assumes that LucasFilms is full of it, which may or may not be the case).

%d bloggers like this: