Time to do a little raining on the parade of Star Wars and monkey fans. And yes I know a gibbon isn’t a monkey but it makes for a much better headline. A scientist hope of naming a newly discovered species of gibbon as “Skywalker” may very well be thwarted by trademark issues.
Recently, a team of researcher led by Professor Fan Pengfei from Sun Yat-sen University in China discovered a new species of gibbon in China. While very close to other species of gibbon, this species has “subtle” differences in its eyebrows and beards to his cousin. Perhaps these gibbons are using Just For Men to hide their grays and not actually a new species at all but I digress. The Professor wants to name this “new” species, Skywalker hoolock, or the scientific name of Hoolock tianxing. The team thinks there are less than 200 of the Skywalker gibbons in China, and some in Myanmar.
Mark Hammill, Mr. Skywalker himself, has come out in favor of the name and had this tweet to say about it.
Big problem, the SKYWALKER name is an owned trademark of Lucasfilm that they are very protective of. You can read about other “Star Wars” trademark battles here. While it would be great to have a species of animals named Skywalker, Disney might not want this to happen. There are several concerns including the name becoming generic and what if people wanted to start making action figures or shirts with the gibbon on it with the name SKYWALKER in a huge font. Most people automatically associate the SKYWALKER name with Lucasfilm and Star Wars and would think there was a relationship between the shirt and Lucasfilm when one doesn’t exist. This is the textbook definition of consumer confusion.
While it would be great to name the gibbons Skywalker, I just don’t see Lucasfilm allowing other people to monkey with their trademark. (I am so funny.)