IP Protection and Limitations for Fictional Characters: Trademark, Copyright and Contract Rights

Recording of a 90-minute premium CLE webinar with Q&A

Conducted on Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Recorded event now available

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Program Materials

This CLE webinar will provide guidance with respect to the legal protections available for fictional characters. We will discuss strategies for using copyright, trademark rights and contract provisions to build equity in fictional characters. The panel will also discuss limitations on exclusive use and will offer best practices for protecting fictional characters.


Merchandising of fictional characters can be highly profitable, and the creation, acquisition and exploitation of rights in characters must be carefully managed to maximize their legal protection. Character creators should be mindful of the possibility of prior conflicting rights that may pose a threat or foreclose important business opportunities. At the same time, entrepreneurs planning to build businesses on a fictional character should understand that their rights may be limited in unanticipated ways.

Copyright, trademark, rights of publicity, and contract law all come into play when creating and licensing rights in a fictional character. Copyright law protects the characterization of a fictional character as part of an original work under copyright. Trademark law may protect the character's name and its distinctive design elements. The rights of non-employee contributors to the creation of a character are acquired through contracts. Copyright and trademark rights exist independently of one another and provide different advantages and terms of protection to the character's owner.

However, there are limitations to each of these types of intellectual property protection. Trademark law does not provide exclusive rights in the character's general traits and abilities. Copyright protection requires originality. Character creators and owners and their IP counsel must understand the limitations as well as the advantages of the protections available.

Listen as our panel examines the legal protections available for fictional characters. The panel will discuss both protecting characters through copyright law and trademark rights as well as through rights of publicity. The panel will also discuss limitations on exclusive use and will offer guidance to counsel on protecting fictional characters.



  1. Fictional characters and the law
  2. Copyright protection for fictional characters
  3. Trademark protection for fictional characters
  4. Rights of publicity protection for fictional characters
  5. Limitations for protection of fictional characters


The panel will review these and other key issues:

  • What aspects of a fictional character are protected by copyright, and what can be protected with trademark law?
  • How should the work of independent contractors be managed to result in protection for the character's owner?
  • What limitations are there in protecting fictional characters under copyright law? Under trademark law?
  • What best practices should counsel follow in protecting a fictional character?


Hoover, Marsha
Marsha K. Hoover

Goldberg Kohn

Ms. Hoover chairs the firm's Intellectual Property Group. She assists clients in connection with trademark,...  |  Read More

Schreyer, Amanda
Amanda E. Schreyer

Morse Barnes-Brown & Pendleton

An experienced transactional lawyer, Ms. Schreyer focuses her practice on licensing and technology; intellectual...  |  Read More

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