This blog is written by Steve Vondran, Esq. California/Arizona intellectual property lawyer. This is general legal information only and not legal advice. For more information, visit our website at VondranLegal.com.
Product developers are always on the lookout for creative ways to market their products and attract customers, and using a fun and lovable creative character is a strategy that has proven to be quite effective. Not only does such a character make a product more appealing, but it also creates an emotional connection with customers that fosters loyalty. This is particularly true for younger audiences who gravitate towards playful and imaginative characters.
However, it is important to note that using a creative character requires trademark protection to prevent intellectual property infringement. By securing a trademark, product developers can ensure that their character is not illegally copied by competitors, thereby protecting their brand and investment. So, if you’re a product developer looking to boost sales and create a lasting impression, consider the power of a lovable creative character – just make sure to protect it!
Lovable Characters Create Brand Awareness And Can Help Build Customer Loyalty
A couple of years back my wife and I visited the United States Patent and Trademark office in Alexandria, Virginia. They had a really cool trademark display and I took a few photos of some of the fun characters that had been trademarked over the years, and noticed how these characters were used for creative packaging and branding. Here are some of the fun figures you may recognize as strong household brands.
Trademark Protection For Characters
These fun and unique characters can also be used in logos or product packaging that may give rise to the right to seek trademark protection. With trademark protection, you can have sole ownership of the character and its associated merchandise. So, whether it’s for toys, food, a sports mascot, clothing, a logo, or product packaging, a creative character can make all the difference in building likeability into your brand.
To be eligible for trademark protection, the brand character/mascot must be used to promote products or services (the purpose of trademark law is identity the source of goods or services), so if your character if unique and promotes your brand, trademark law can provide nationwide rights.One way to go about creating a unique character is hire an artist, cartoonist or illustrator to create a unique and novel character for you. Websites like fiverr.com have many designers and artists to choose from. One tip however, make sure you are getting all the intellectual property rights from the creator so you own all the rights.
To search the records of the Trademark office, go to SearchTess.com and click on the green bar.
Make sure no one else is using a confusingly similar trademark or you can be denied a registration.
Copyright Protection for Characters (“Brand Mascots”)
Although the copyright law does not protect the name or the general idea for a character, a work that depicts or describes a particular character may be registered if it contains a sufficient amount of original authorship. A registration for a visual art work, a literary work, or a work of the performing arts that depicts or describes a character covers the expression set forth in the deposit copy(ies), but it does not cover the character per se.
In other words, the copyright in the registered work protects the author’s expression of the character, but it does not protect the mere concept of the character. The copyright in the character itself is limited to the artistic rendition of the character in visual form or the literary delineation of the character’s specific attributes in textual form. (The trademark law may provide additional protection for the character’s name or other attributes if the character is sufficiently distinctive and is used to identify the source of the trademark owner’s goods or services.)
804.3(B) Characters A character is a person, animal, or even an inanimate object that is used to portray the content of a dramatic work. The copyright law does not protect the name or the general idea for a character. See, e.g., Klinger v. Conan Doyle Estate, Ltd., 755 F.3d 496, 502-03 (7th Cir. 2014). However, the Office may issue a registration based on the authorship describing, depicting, or embodying a character.
To search for registered copyrights go to https://copyrightsearch.net/
Another potential option is to seek a design patent for your unique character designs. If you are interested, check out my article on IP and product packaging.
Some other great characters who made product sales history
Here are a few other product characters that have launched companies into sales greatness.
- 2000 – Geico Gecko
- 1894 – Michelin Man (tires)
- 1998 – Colonel Sanders
- 1954 – Kool-Aid man
- 1986 – Chester Cheetah (Cheetos)
- 1916 – Planters Mr. Peanut
- 1983 – Captain Morgan (pirate)
- 1981 – Mario (for Nintendo game)
- 1968 – Pringles guy
- 1957 – Cornelius (Corny) Rooster
- 1936 – Mr. Monopoly (Rich Uncle Pennybags)
Attorney Steve® Tip: So, it’s time to put on your THINKING CAP and see if there is a way you can integrate a fun character or product mascot for your products and services. This can turn your BORING product into a fun loveable product that sticks in your customers mind and keeps them coming back for more!!
For special legal assistance for trademarks, contact VondranLegal.com at (877) 276-5084.