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Thread: Fictional Names and Copyright Issues...

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    A Broken Keeper GHWard's Avatar
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    Fictional Names and Copyright Issues...

    ... An interesting question... has any Fictional Writer on this forum ever copyrighted names (i.e. fictional places, items, fictional companies, fictional organizations) he/she created for his/her plots?

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    That hairy-handed gent
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    You are probably confusing copyright with trademark. They are two independent and different forms of legal protection of intellectual property.

    And I don't know that there are any "fictional writers" here at this site. Most of us are quite real.

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    A Gentleman of a refined age... thothguard51's Avatar
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    When you copyright a book, you are copyrighting the contents of the book as they appear, in whole and in part. If I am not mistaken.

    Trademarking is when you register a product logo or other such items.

    Robert Griffin the 3rd, (QB of the Washington Redskins), trademarked his initials, RGIII and RG3, but he could not trademark his name... Pretty smart move on his part...
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    Rewriting My Destiny Cyia's Avatar
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    There are trademarks in place for Harry Potter, Twilight and the Hunger Games.

    I can still write a book about a boy named Harry Potter, his friend Ron and give them classmates named Bella Swan and Edward. They can attend Panem Magnet School, District 12 and be taught by a werewolf.
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  5. #5
    practical experience, FTW
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    I registered a domain so I could use it in my book without issues. Does that count?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Cyia View Post
    There are trademarks in place for Harry Potter, Twilight and the Hunger Games.

    I can still write a book about a boy named Harry Potter, his friend Ron and give them classmates named Bella Swan and Edward. They can attend Panem Magnet School, District 12 and be taught by a werewolf.

    if you wrote that, that would be amazing!

  7. #7
    Heckuva good sport frimble3's Avatar
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    Jean Auel trademarked 'Earth's Children' as the series title for her prehistoric novels. Which only reminded me of all those children's TV cartoons, where the whole point was to sell stuff, not tell a story.

  8. #8
    In the end, it's just you and the manuscript job's Avatar
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    What blacbird said. You can trademark character's names and places. Disney trademarks Mickey Mouse. DC Comics trademarks 'Gotham City'.
    See the wiki here.

    To trademark your fictional creations you'd need to demonstrate their use in commerce -- You'd have to make money. You'd have to show use of the name elsewhere interfered with you making money. And the trademark would lapse if you stopped making money.
    Last edited by job; 12-21-2012 at 04:14 AM.

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    New writer since 07/2012. Cornelius Gault's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cyia View Post
    There are trademarks in place for Harry Potter, Twilight and the Hunger Games.

    I can still write a book about a boy named Harry Potter, his friend Ron and give them classmates named Bella Swan and Edward. They can attend Panem Magnet School, District 12 and be taught by a werewolf.
    Perhaps that's true, but not wise. At least, not unless you have some other purpose for your statement.

    The purpose of the Harry Potter trademark is so the owner can make money on it an prevent others from doing so. If you created and sold a Harry Potter T-Shirt, you might make money ... until you get caught by the copyright nazis.

    You could be required to pay a fine, pay part of your profits or possibly get a stern look and slap on the hand.

    Mixing the name Harry Potter with other names "dilutes" the trademark and can lead to confusion on the part of the buyer.

    If someone wanted to use a trademarked name, good luck and don't get caught.
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    That hairy-handed gent
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cornelius Gault View Post
    The purpose of the Harry Potter trademark is so the owner can make money on it an prevent others from doing so. If you created and sold a Harry Potter T-Shirt, you might make money ... until you get caught by the copyright trademark nazis.
    I just had to make this correction, even though I know you meant this. But soooooooo many people post here in complete confusion over the issues of "copyright" and "trademark" that it's important to keep them straight.

    We have a bazoogle of threads here relating to these issues, and everyone with questions is urged to google the terms and get the straight dope from the official governmental agencies involved in the legal statutes.

    I'll again post my favorite example of a literary use of both copyright and trademark as it applies in the U.S., and note that the statutes in other nations differ.

    Edgar Rice Burroughs wrote Tarzan of the Apes, and its publication sent him into the same kind of success stratosphere enjoyed more recently by J.K. Rowling. Burroughs was a prolific writer, and produced a long series of Tarzan sequels, along with a variety of other adventure novels. Eight or ten of the Tarzan books have now lapsed into public domain in the U.S., meaning that anybody can legally reproduce the original texts and sell them, with no royalties involved. Numerous publishers have done so.

    BUT, Burroughs also obtained trademark protection for the name Tarzan, the characters and setting of his novels. His estate still holds and enforces those trademarks. You cannot write and publish a new Tarzan story without obtaining explicit permission from these trademark holders.

    Them's the rules. Fail to understand them at your peril.

    caw
    Last edited by blacbird; 12-21-2012 at 12:15 PM.
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  11. #11
    Skimming galaxies Lidiya's Avatar
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    I fell in love with a street name once so I used it, but then I found out the actual street was named after a famous lake, and I had to scrap it.
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    Rewriting My Destiny Cyia's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cornelius Gault View Post
    Perhaps that's true, but not wise. At least, not unless you have some other purpose for your statement.

    The purpose of the Harry Potter trademark is so the owner can make money on it an prevent others from doing so. If you created and sold a Harry Potter T-Shirt, you might make money ... until you get caught by the copyright nazis.

    You could be required to pay a fine, pay part of your profits or possibly get a stern look and slap on the hand.

    Mixing the name Harry Potter with other names "dilutes" the trademark and can lead to confusion on the part of the buyer.

    If someone wanted to use a trademarked name, good luck and don't get caught.
    Not even close.

    I can use those names as much as I want - so can you. They're names, and not copyrightable as names.

    What you, I, and no one but their respective creators can do is use "the" Harry Potter (as in a British boy wizard with a lightning bolt scar who attends Hogwarts) and "the" Edward Cullen (as in a vegetarian non-fanged sparkling vampire from Washington state) or "the" District 12 (as in 1 of 12 competitive districts in the nation of Panem as established in the novel The Hunger Games.)

    You can use names all you want - just not the characters.
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    Writer is as Writer does Terie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cornelius Gault View Post
    ... until you get caught by the copyright nazis.
    Wow. People who protect their intellectual property rights are...Nazis. Just wow.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lidiya View Post
    I fell in love with a street name once so I used it, but then I found out the actual street was named after a famous lake, and I had to scrap it.
    Why did you have to scrap it?

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    Tell it like it Is Susan Littlefield's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cornelius Gault View Post
    ... until you get caught by the copyright nazis.
    Oh my. Not a good thing to say.
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    Tell it like it Is Susan Littlefield's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lidiya View Post
    I fell in love with a street name once so I used it, but then I found out the actual street was named after a famous lake, and I had to scrap it.
    Why? Does this mean I can't use Main Street or 5th Street or Lake Superior in my story?
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    Retired Illuminatus dangerousbill's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lidiya View Post
    I fell in love with a street name once so I used it, but then I found out the actual street was named after a famous lake, and I had to scrap it.
    Why? You were perfectly entitled to use the name. No one owns a street name.

    Hollywood, California, tried a few years ago to make Hollywood, Florida, change its name, asserting that it had a trademark on the name Hollywood. The court chucked the case.
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    Retired Illuminatus dangerousbill's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Terie View Post
    Wow. People who protect their intellectual property rights are...Nazis. Just wow.
    The only people who will protect a copyright are the copyright owners. The same is true for trademarks.

    If they happen to also be Nazis, so be it.

    Most infringements are dealt with using a simple cease-and-desist letter. If the miscreant continues to violate a copyright after this, they are demonstrating intent and might be subject to punitive as well as financial damages. But taking someone to court over a copyright or trademark infringement is a very expensive process for both sides.
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    Skimming galaxies Lidiya's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dangerousbill View Post
    Why? You were perfectly entitled to use the name. No one owns a street name.

    Hollywood, California, tried a few years ago to make Hollywood, Florida, change its name, asserting that it had a trademark on the name Hollywood. The court chucked the case.
    I like uncommon, unheard of names. But I guess I was being kind of stupid. Your street name has changed back, book characters!
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    Writer is as Writer does Terie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dangerousbill View Post
    The only people who will protect a copyright are the copyright owners. The same is true for trademarks.

    If they happen to also be Nazis, so be it.

    Most infringements are dealt with using a simple cease-and-desist letter. If the miscreant continues to violate a copyright after this, they are demonstrating intent and might be subject to punitive as well as financial damages. But taking someone to court over a copyright or trademark infringement is a very expensive process for both sides.
    As someone whose intellectual property rights were infringed to the tune of a substantial five-figure monetary amount, I know.

    I also don't appreciate being equated with being a Nazi for protecting my intellectual property.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Terie View Post
    I also don't appreciate being equated with being a Nazi for protecting my intellectual property.
    I agree. I also don't like Nazis being equated with people who are perceived as being a bit mean.
    Last edited by Buffysquirrel; 12-22-2012 at 01:21 AM. Reason: clarity

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    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin Tyler Danann's Avatar
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    I do because some have an attitude that is so uncompromising and brutal it might as well be...

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tyler Danann View Post
    I do because some have an attitude that is so uncompromising and brutal it might as well be...
    Maybe you should read more on what the Nazis actually did, if you really believe it's remotely comparable.

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    practical experience, FTW Psychotic.Pink's Avatar
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    The only time I decide not to use names of people I know (other than the name just not fitting quite right for the character) is when I know these people would try and raise a fuss legally, and if I'm not terribly invested in the name. Because at that point it's just not worth it, even though I'd be in the right.

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    The King and Queen of Cheese BenPanced's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tyler Danann View Post
    I do because some have an attitude that is so uncompromising and brutal it might as well be...
    As uncompromising and brutal as you might think it is, it helps to learn the business end of writing. Can't be arsed? Them's the breaks. As in other fields, certain terms have specific meanings and usage that can't be interchanged at whim. If you say or use something incorrectly, you can expect to be corrected or, at worst, to look like a total amateur.
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