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Old 12-19-2012, 11:07 PM   #1
GHWard
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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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Old 12-19-2012, 11:24 PM   #2
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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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Old 12-19-2012, 11:40 PM   #3
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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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Old 12-19-2012, 11:41 PM   #4
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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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Old 12-20-2012, 02:29 AM   #5
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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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Old 12-20-2012, 09:14 PM   #6
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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.

if you wrote that, that would be amazing!
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Old 12-20-2012, 10:39 PM   #7
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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.
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Old 12-21-2012, 03:07 AM   #8
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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.

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Old 12-21-2012, 05:16 AM   #9
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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.
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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Old 12-21-2012, 11:08 AM   #10
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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.

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Old 12-21-2012, 02:58 PM   #11
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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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Old 12-21-2012, 04:54 PM   #12
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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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Old 12-21-2012, 05:07 PM   #13
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... until you get caught by the copyright nazis.
Wow. People who protect their intellectual property rights are...Nazis. Just wow.
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Old 12-21-2012, 05:50 PM   #14
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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.
Why did you have to scrap it?
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Old 12-21-2012, 07:04 PM   #15
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... until you get caught by the copyright nazis.
Oh my. Not a good thing to say.
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Old 12-21-2012, 07:05 PM   #16
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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.
Why? Does this mean I can't use Main Street or 5th Street or Lake Superior in my story?
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Old 12-21-2012, 08:18 PM   #17
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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.
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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Old 12-21-2012, 08:23 PM   #18
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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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Old 12-21-2012, 08:25 PM   #19
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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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Old 12-21-2012, 08:39 PM   #20
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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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Old 12-22-2012, 12:20 AM   #21
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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.
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Old 12-22-2012, 07:52 PM   #22
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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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Old 12-22-2012, 08:49 PM   #23
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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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Old 12-22-2012, 10:17 PM   #24
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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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Old 12-22-2012, 10:25 PM   #25
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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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