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Trademark Confusion

Posted: Tue May 05, 2015 3:10 pm
by littlewhispers
Regarding trademark and copyright, how far does this extend to character names? I've a character named Tech in one of my comic ideas but want to know if this name is useable after I came across these links: ... _trademark

It's mostly the first, second and fourth which concerns me. Would the name 'Tech' be alright to use? And how far does trademark cover names for characters? What is alright to use in terms of similarity, even by accident?

I mean suppose somone, I dunno, did a series of books called "Elizabath" and trademarked that. Does that mean I couldent have a charcter with that name anymore?

Posted: Tue May 05, 2015 5:46 pm
by AndyJ
Hi littlewhispers,
It sounds from the breadth of all your questions on the forums that you could do well to get a good book on intellectual property in order to gain an overview of the various rights and how they operate.

In the meantime, let's just explain a little about trade marks. Trade marks are nationally administered (although there is something called a community trade mark which is valid across all the member states of the EU). The four links you supplied are all for trade mark registrations in the USA and so are inapplicable here in the UK.

The place you need to check is the UK Intellectual Property Office trade mark database. A quick search for the word 'tech' in class 16 (printed matter) does not bring up any obvious problems but it would be necessary to check a few other classes as well to be sure that there no literary or cartoon characters by that name which have been registered. Here's a typical registration which would not cause you any problems, even though it's for the word 'tech' and and has been registered in class 16.

Where a word has been registered for a different purpose (say something like plumbing services) that wouldn't prevent you using the word for a character in a story, so, to that extent trade marks tend to be more flexible than copyright for what you want to do. In any case, infringement only occurs when a mark is used in the course of trade, and a character in a book would not meet that criterion.

Try reading some of the background information on the IPO website concerning trade marks if you need more clarification.

Posted: Tue May 05, 2015 7:39 pm
by littlewhispers
Im a little confused I admit regarding the whole thing. Thats why I ask on the forums.

From what I understand, trademark infringement seems to only really matter if your trying to confuse costumers, or make them think there getting something related to something else.

Example, I wanted to call a character Howler years ago, but have stumbled upon this.

Since its under warner bros, I can guess what its trademarking. The Harry Potter Howler. Comics and books seemed to be covered in this class.(I did not get the idea from the Harry potter series however)

However I wouldent be using there actual howler, an angry talking letter, or anything like it. It would be the name of a character, have nothing to do with Harry Potter so I cant see where any confusion between the products would occur, or how anyone could think it would have something to do with Harry Potter. From what I understand, all that would matter would be if I were to use the name "Howler" as part of a branding mechanism for goods or services for sale relating to comics and graphic novels. Like calling it "Howler comics" or anything else that might fall in the same catergory. Thus, I could have a character named Howler, as long as the title of my work wasent "Howler", or if I ever sell merchandise I didn't label them Howler either, like an art print or summin? If I understand correclty

Can they stop me from creating a fictional character named Howler? Or any common mundane names?

What does, course of trade mean exaclty? Im sorry, all this stuff is very confusing to me. And I dont mean to be a pest.

"A character in a book would not meet that criterion."Does that include graphic novels and comics? A series of such? Or just a one off?

Regarding registered character, can you use the same name as long as it doesent LOOK like that character?Same name diffrent character entirely? If its a common name anyway I imagine and has no secondary meaning(you couldent use "Superman" for example.) Or is it best to alter the name a bit? Like give a diffrent last name or first name. I imagine you can use the name Mickey, but you cant call a character "Mickey Mouse"(or call a mouse character Mickey).There are only so many names for that matter, they'd run out eventually. Same with words

I imagine giving a character a last name helps with the distinction in any case. You could call a character Pamela Williams and register that, and then someone else could register the name Pamela Hargreaves and register that, or just plain Pamela. Could use them in a comic or book, even if you dont refer to the full name all the time, still diffrent. At least if I understand right, its pretty confusing...

And if somethings expired or abadoned, whats that mean?Its free to use??

If I understand correctly, Im guessing if somethings uk registered thats only where it works. Same with EU, only applies in europe? Do I need to just be concerned with the uk ones?

I would register trademarks myself, but I dont have that kind of money. Nor does it always seem absolutley neccesary. is there anyway to protect yoruself however from someone trademarking your own idea? Keeping a dated record mayby?

One last question. From what you told me regarding tech then, I could say, use a name or word in another class if its not registered? For example, say somone, I dunno, called a clothing line "rainbow". If its not covered under the book class thingy, could I use the same word(in this cae rainbow) as a title?