Several months ago I wrote about a southern tale gone awry. The villain was the Monroe County Heritage Museum and the victim was Harper Lee, author of To Kill a Mockingbird. You can read the tale about the Monroe County Heritage Museum opposing Ms. Lee’s claim to the trademark registration in the phrase To Kill a Mockingbird by going to this post, To Kill a Trademark Registration.
In addition to the pending trademark action at the United States Patent and Trademark Office, Ms. Lee filed a lawsuit against the Museum in the hopes of recouping some of the income she failed to receive from the Museum over the years. The lawsuit alleged that the Museum took in more than $500,000 in 2012 from souvenir sales with the phrase To Kill a Mockingbird and memorabilia associated with the book. The lawsuit against the Museum also cited the museum for wrongly using and appropriating the domain address of www.tokillamockingbird.com.
In a conclusion that would make Atticus Finch happy, it was reported this week the lawsuit settled on Tuesday. Unfortunately, details of the settlement are now unknown. However, a few conclusions can be drawn and lead me to believe Ms. Lee was victorious.
The first evidence that Ms. Lee was victorious is a change in the website address. If you type in www.tokillamockingbird.com in your web address bar, you will immediately be redirected to the website www.monroecountymuseum.org and the address bar will show this change. Go ahead, go up to the address bar and type in tokillamockingbird.com, I’ll wait. You will also see boldly stated on the front page of the website:
Based upon their response to the pending trademark action, which can be found, HERE I cannot imagine the Monroe County Museum willingly made the decision to change their website unless there was some sort of legal prompting.
The second evidence that Ms. Lee received a favorable settlement also deals with the website. When I first wrote about the Monroe County Museum’s website in September 2013, any visitor was able to buy online To Kill a Mockingbird souvenir items (hats, t-shirts, coffee mugs, etc.) and have the items shipped anywhere in the world via the Gift Shop tab. A visit to the Museum Gift Shop tab now simply states “come see us.”
As of the writing of this post a search of the Trademark office’s website shows that the Trademark registration is still pending with the opposition from the Monroe County Heritage Museum. But, based upon the quick change of the website in less than 48 hours from a motion being filed for settlement, one can assume the Museum’s trademark opposition will also soon fall away.
While we may never know all the details of the settlement, the evidence points to Ms. Lee rightfully owning and controlling her creative work. It seems this time Ms. Lee proved her own words that “The one place where a man ought to get a square deal is in a courtroom.” – To Kill a Mockingbird. Do you think the outcome is fair? For my writer friends – what have you done to protect all of your intellectual property rights? Take part in the conversation below and Stay Tuned In!
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