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By Brian Ralphs from Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire, UK via Wikimedia Commons[/caption]
"To Kill a Mockingbird" is a Pulitzer Prize winning novel about rural life in the Deep South during the Great Depression. The story chronicles the life of lawyer Atticus Finch and his family as he attempts to defend an African-American man wrongly accused of rape. The social influence of the novel cannot be overstated. For instance, Atticus Finch (an entirely fictional character) has become a legal icon, inspiring countless young people to pursue a career in the law.
Over fifty years after the book's release, Atticus Finch became embroiled in another legal dispute. Last year, Harper Lee, the author of "To Kill a Mockingbird," filed suit against the Monroe County Heritage Museum in Monroeville Alabama, alleging (among other things) trademark infringement. According to the Complaint, the museum centered its entire business around the fictional work, sold "To Kill a Mockingbird" merchandise, and registered the domain name, tokillamockingbird.com.
Although Ms. Lee and the museum recently resolved this dispute in a confidential settlement, the case highlights the value of trademark protection in artistic endeavors. Artists, writers, musicians and other creative types are usually diligent in pursuing copyright protection for their works, but rarely think about trademarks (Harper Lee did not file her application for a trademark for TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD on clothing until 2012). The dispute with the museum, however, shows that creative types should always assess the nature of their creative work to determine whether federal trademark protection should be considered in addition to copyright protection.
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