Thursday, November 3 2022   \  Published by Novagraaf .

Copyright protection: can you own a fictional character?

Copyright protection: can you own a fictional character?

The short answer is ‘yes’, you can own a fictional character, says UK Trademark Attorney Luke Portnow, and this summer the UK saw a particularly interesting case law development in copyright protection.

Special care must be taken when using characters, for example in marketing and advertising materials, particularly if they are registered as trademarks. Works such as cartoons, animated films, books, and computer games can each bequeath multiple intellectual property rights, including copyright and trademarks, and (in the UK) rights under the common law tort of ‘passing off’. Improper use can result in trademark infringement; the main exception or defence to this being parody or pastiche.

Character monetisation

One need only think of Disney to appreciate how a brand can develop any number of characters into truly monetised intellectual property assets: merchandising alone can generate huge revenues.

These characters are often registered as trademarks because such rights can be renewed, and their protection continue infinitum (copyright in this field generally runs out 70 years after the death of the author). Trademark registrations are also usually far quicker and more cost-effective to enforce than i.e., copyright or a claim for ‘passing off’. Read more

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