Word search puzzles

'Is it legal', 'can I do this' type questions and discussions.
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EllieMac
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Word search puzzles

Post by EllieMac » Tue Feb 10, 2015 7:12 am

Hi,

I would like to create and sell themed word search puzzles, such as, Dr Who, where there would be no logos or illustrations nor photos, letters only and apart from the 'Dr Who' in the grid, the text would be black or white.

I would just like to verify if this would be safe to do?

Basically, do I need a licence from each TV show or movie to use the title, dates, characters and actors in a word search grid?

Thanks,

EllieMac.

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AndyJ
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Post by AndyJ » Tue Feb 10, 2015 8:20 am

Hi EllieMac,
There are no copyright problems associated with using names, dates, single words or phrases based on TV shows or movies. Names are almost always exempt from copyright protection because they are 'facts' (as are dates) or too short to be really creative enough. Even made-up names and words like Tardis, Dr Who or Luke Skywalker fail to meet the minimum threshold of admissibility.

However many such words may also be registered as trade marks, (Dr Who certainly is) so you need to be careful not to describe your puzzles using such terms, as this might suggest that the product is officially issued or licensed by the rights owner, in this case the BBC.
Advice or comment provided here is not and does not purport to be legal advice as defined by s.12 of Legal Services Act 2007

EllieMac
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Post by EllieMac » Tue Feb 10, 2015 10:15 pm

Thanks AndyJ,

That's what we thought but wanted a confirmation. Do you think we could put a disclaimer on the site stating the products are not endorsed by the BBC or whoever to get around the trademark issue?

The other problem is how to market the puzzle if we can't use the title of the puzzle? Could we call them a Dr Who themed puzzle? Maybe a play on words do you think?

Many thanks,

EllieMac

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AndyJ
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Post by AndyJ » Wed Feb 11, 2015 1:35 pm

Hi Ellie,
While no disclaimer is necessary if you are just using the trade mark words within the puzzle, it would be highly advisable to do so if you use them in titles of your puzzles. But better still, avoid such words altogether in titles.
The problem you face with trade marks has two aspects: trade mark law itself and the common law tort of passing off. Both of these apply where a mark is being used in course of trade and there is the potential for the buying public to be confused as to the origin of the goods concerned. Trade mark law looks at specific things such as the similarity of the marks and the similarity of the classes of goods in which the marks are registered, and on that basis your use would possibly infringe, because you would be using the trade mark exactly (Dr Who) in classes (printed matter and games) for which the trade mark is registered. Passing off considers a wider, more general issue of whether the use cashes in on the existing goodwill of a product or service, and again your use could well fall into that category too. You will be appealing to people who recognise the Dr Who programmes and characters, and will know that other merchandise connected to Dr Who has been authorised by the BBC, so there is a real chance that your puzzles could, if they have Dr Who in the title, mislead people. A disclaimer might help to dispel any confusion, but it needs to be really prominent, possibly as prominent as the title itself.
If you use generic or non-trade mark words such as 'time traveller' (but not Timelord as this is also a registered trade mark) or science fiction or TV stars etc, then you should be on much safer ground.
Advice or comment provided here is not and does not purport to be legal advice as defined by s.12 of Legal Services Act 2007

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Post by EllieMac » Thu Feb 12, 2015 6:45 am

Thank you AndyJ you have been most helpfull.

Kind regards,

Ellie

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