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Character names cannot be copyrighted under U.S. law. They can be
trademarked, but I am not presenting them in a manner that would be in any
sort of trademark violation. Naming your chips was a trademark issue
because you were marketing a product under the name.
Coincidently, the best example I can think of also comes from the world of
In the so-called "Golden Age" of comic books, there was a publisher named
Fawcett. Their most popular character was Captain Marvel (the real one).
They were run out of business by some legal problems, and the trademark
"Captain Marvel" fell into disuse. Sometime during the 60's, a company
named MF published a few issues of a totally lame Captain Marvel character
of their own creation, but they flopped
Then, Marvel Comics realized that the trademark was up for grabs and had the
word "Marvel" in it so they created their own Captain Marvel to keep anybody
else from using the name. Since then they have made sure to publish at
least one Captain Marvel comic book every few years to keep the trademark
In the early 70's, DC Comics bought the rights of all of Fawcett's
characters. They began publishing their own comics about the original
Captain Marvel, but they couldn't call the book Captain Marvel so they named
it Shazam! The character was still named Captain Marvel, and they can
(apparently) still put the name somewhere on the cover, but they cannot
title the books Captain Marvel.
From: Hager, Harry (US - East Brunswick) [mailto:hhager -at- dc -dot- com]
Sent: Tuesday, April 03, 2001 10:13 AM
Subject: RE: Populated screenshots
Be careful about using names of copyrighted characters in screen shots. You
could be headed for a serious legal nightmare. Don't even think of using a
Disney character name. Disney could sue your company into the ground. They
aggressively protect their copyrighted characters and names at all cost.
I once worked for a very large computer company and the hardware engineers
thought it would be cute to name some of the chips on a new mainframe after
some of the Sesame Street characters, such as Big Bird, Oscar, Bert, Ernie
and so on. (Not Disney characters)
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