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Estate of Arthur Conan Doyle defends copyright-related lawsuit

| Sep 19, 2013 | Business Litigation |

North Carolina fans of Sherlock Holmes may be interested in learning that an author has sued the estate of Arthur Conan Doyle to enjoin it from asserting certain intellectual property rights associated with the late author’s famous character. Although various versions of the Sherlock Holmes saga have been presented in recent years, including two major motion pictures, the estate typically demands a licensing fee for use of the character of Holmes and other characters associated with the British detective..

The individual who filed suit against the estate wrote a book entitled In the Company of Sherlock Holmes. While working on the project, the man was contacted by representatives of the Conan Doyle estate, who advised the writer and editor that a license was needed to use the Sherlock Holmes name and character in the man’s project. The man objected to the request and filed suit in Illinois, which seeks a court order declaring that because many of Conan Doyle’s stories were written before the 1920’s, they are in the public domain as is the Sherlock Holmes character itself.

The estate maintains that 10 of the late Conan Doyle’s story remain protected by copyright laws, which extend a copyright for the life of the author plus 70 years or a total of 95 years after publication, whichever time period is shorter. The estate contends that until all of the late Conan Doyle’s stories are beyond the copyright protection time frame, no individual or entity may make use of the Sherlock Holmes character without the express permission of the estate.

A North Carolina commercial law lawyer may be able to assist a client in a business dispute that involves intellectual property. Such a lawyer may also aid in proactive client services like contract preparation and contract review.

Source: Hollywood Reporter, “Conan Doyle Estate: Denying Sherlock Holmes Copyright Gives Him ‘Multiple Personalities’“, Eriq Gardner, September 13, 2013

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