Wednesday, August 3, 2011
Wants to "Own" Shakespeare Phrase for Merchandise
All that glistens is not gold. Your plan is admirable and ambitious but we're always a little wary of attempting to plan the launch of a commercial universe all at once. We think it's usually better to take it step by step and see what works and what doesn't. With that caveat in place, here are the answers to your questions.
Good enough to call your own. The idea of "owning" a Shakespeare phrase for merchandise is possible but it requires money and diligence. As you're aware, "ownership" of the phrase would require that you acquire trademark rights. (And as with all intellectual property rights, your claim will only have value if you have the money to go after those who infringe your trademark.) For each class of merchandise, you will need to register a trademark claim (between $275 and $325 per class, depending on how you register). So, candy would be in one class, greeting cards another, etc. By the way, if you register the phrase for greeting cards, that would give you the right to use the phrase for a line of cards; it wouldn't guarantee your exclusive right to use the phrase as the card's message. You can get the trademark registrations only by using the mark on the goods in commerce -- that is, you'll need to be selling the goods to get the rights. However, you can reserve the mark by filing an intent-to-use application, provided you have a bona fide intent to use the marks on the goods. Also, you cannot get trademark rights for a single book, but you can get it for a series of books.
What's in a name? As for using Shakespeare quotes for a book title, no problem, though you might want to check this site to avoid any confusion.
Let's kill all the lawyers. As for your last question, the Dear Rich Staff cannot refer you to any attorneys although there are many online sources for locating attorneys (including our employer's legal directory). As for doing the legal work yourself, that's always possible. Publishing the book won't bring up many legal issues and it sounds as if you have the necessary releases. More can be found in our Getting Permission book. As for the licensing deals, those probably will involve a lawyer and we would recommend contacting one once you have a solid offer in hand.