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I am writing a children' book. The main character is an animal that has a name and characteristics that are very identifiable to a human actor's character.

For instance, let's say the animal was a fox and he was a math wiz and went by the name AP Fox or AP Keaton, wore a suit and tie. Something like that. Would this be an issue for me? Should I patent my character?

What if the character is based on a real animal (pet) and I base a whole line of children's books on him. Does the pet owner have any claim? If I add the disclaimer that any resemblance to an actual person etc. is coincidental, will cover me?

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    I think the word you're looking for is "trademark", not "patent".
    – F1Krazy
    Sep 1, 2022 at 6:41
  • You can't trademark a character.
    – Chenmunka
    Sep 1, 2022 at 7:44
  • Please edit the question to limit it to a specific problem with enough detail to identify an adequate answer.
    – Community Bot
    Sep 1, 2022 at 7:45

1 Answer 1

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So you have three different legal intellectual property claims that you need to work with:

Copyright : Copyrights are published works and copyrights are created automatically on publishing. They protect unique works of art and are transferable by the original artist. For example, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets is a copyrighted manuscript created by J.K. Rowling. The cover art (for the American editions) was created by Mary GrandPré though she likely does not own the copyrights as they would have been ceded to Rowling and the Publishers who make the books.

Trademarks: Unique logos or styles or designs that are protected by a trademark. A "TM" letter mark denotes the trademark exists on the product, but an "R" in a circle is used to denote it's a registered trademark by a patent office. While we discussed in the last example ownership of different copyrights related to Harry Potter, the actual American published book with the manuscript, the cover art, and the distinct lettering of the word "Harry Potter" (where the P is formed by a lightning bolt) are trademarks of the book and the product as a whole.

Patent: Patents are issued for physical designs and almost always describe a working process of a products, formulas, and things that can be technically described. Continuing our Harry Potter theme, while Rowling holds intellectual copyrights and trademarks, she does not own the patent for the ride "Flight of the Hippogriff at Universal Studio's Islands of Adventure. The ride is a mass produced roller coaster made by Verkoma Rides Manufacturing. Specifically it is a Verkoma 355m Junior Rollercoaster and shares a track layout and vehicle assembly not only with her sister ride in Universal Studios Japan, but also several other rollercoasters with various names throughout the world. While the Harry Potter trappings of Hippogriff are not their own, the layout of the track, the block sections, it's vehicle specs and mechanical workings, are all patents owned by Verkoma.

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  • This might usefully be extended by covering image rights too. Sep 2, 2022 at 8:53
  • It should be pointed out that names cannot in and of themselves be copyrighted, so you can write a character who's name is Harry Potter... he just cannot be similar to THE Harry Potter... Perhaps he's like the guy from Office Space who is named Michael Bolton and hates the more famous one for all the grief the shared name gives him (I knew at least two separate Mike Meyers, neither of whom receive royalties from Shrek.)
    – hszmv
    Sep 2, 2022 at 11:08
  • Thanks for the information noted above. Is there some place to research trademarks, copyrights? What about people who imitate for a living- like actors that pretend to be Marilyn Monroe or Michael Jackson? They use a persons likeness, speak like someone, use phrases that a person is known for (catch phrases) and make money. Are these not trademark or image right violations? Sep 12, 2022 at 18:00
  • @LisaSeifred Generally, these would fall under fair use doctrine of copyright law, usually under Parody or Homage. With actual human beings, trying to pass themselves off as someone they are not could be fraud or identity theft crimes. For example, Weird Al is famous for making parody songs of pop music, in some cases shot for shot remakes and performances imitating the music videos for those songs ("Fat" and "Smells Like Nirvana" compared to "Bad" and "Smells Like Teen Spirit" respectively), however those are transformative enough to qualify under Fair Use (in the U.S.)+
    – hszmv
    Sep 12, 2022 at 19:06
  • @LisaSeifred It helps that in both cases, Weird Al had the artists blessing to do the parody, with Michael Jackson going so far to get him in touch with the production crew for Bad (Jackson had denied Al the right to parody "Black or White" due to the significance of the song's message, but went over the top to help with "Fat" just to show Al that he wasn't offended, he'd just prefer that Al didn't make light of "Black or White"). For his part, Al does not legally need to ask the artists for their permission to do a parody song... he's just a stand up guy and wants the artists in on the joke.
    – hszmv
    Sep 12, 2022 at 19:10

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