Thursday, April 11, 2013
Sorry, You Can't Patent Cartoon Characters
How do most cartoonists protect their creations? Most cartoon characters are protected under copyright and trademark law (not patent law). Even though copyright is free and automatic, we still recommend copyright registration (online $35). Read more about copyright protection and registration for protecting cartoons and comic strips. You can also acquire trademark protection for your character. That provides exclusive rights to the character name, logo, and image on certain goods and services. Read more about trademark law, here. Keep in mind, no matter what laws protect your character, you can't prevent others from stealing it. These legal protections give you the basis - assuming you can afford it -- to chase, sue and recover from the wrongdoers.
* That Said Dept. Although there's no way you can obtain a utility patent for a cartoon character (utility patents only protect functional inventions), you can file a design patent, if, for example, your character is incorporated into the design of a lamp base. It's probably overkill in your situation because of the costs involved for filings (particularly if you are seeking expedited treatment). Copyright and trademark laws should provide equivalent or better protection.