Harper Lee Seeks Trademark for ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’
It’s one of the most well-known and loved books in American literary history and it won a Pulitzer Prize in 1961. It’s also been banned on numerous occasions. Chances are you’ve read it, despite the ban and, like me, have wondered why Harper Lee never wrote another book. Yes, it’s To Kill a Mockingbird.
Now, in another twist in the tale, it appears Lee is seeking trademark for the title words when they’re used on clothing. The Monroe County Heritage Museum in Monroeville, Alabama, is contesting the trademark, “contending the sale of souvenirs with the words is vital to its continued operation”. It would seem it’s all about the money.
Lee's New York attorney, Robert Clarida, said the 87-year-old author, who lives in Monroeville, has never received a penny from the museum's sale of T-shirts, caps and other souvenirs. "They want to continue selling the merchandise without Ms. Lee getting any money," he said Friday.
Is Lee just being greedy? Well, the museum might well be profiting from her intellectual property (although titles are notoriously difficult to trademark or copyright), but they don’t see it that way. Of course.
Museum Director Stephanie Rogers said Lee's book drives tourism in the rural south Alabama county. She said the museum has always been supportive of Lee, and she has never said anything about the souvenirs when visiting the museum. "I feel like all we do is honor her here," she said.
Well, as they operate several To Kill a Mockingbird attractions, including tours of the old Monroe County courthouse (which was the inspiration for the film), it’s hard to argue they’re not profiting from her work, not to mention using the title as their domain name. No one expects a quick result as actions like this normally take up to a year to resolve.
Lee did recently settle “in principle” the case over her ownership of the copyright for the book, where she alleged she was “scammed” into signing over her original copyright. No word yet on what that settlement means, but I’d bet it’s about money. I can’t really believe I’m going to ask this, but should she be justly compensated for her work or not? I know I would probably be doing the same thing in her shoes.
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