Can I adapt a public domain book for film if it contains a trademarked setting, such as Pellucidar?

Maura B.

The Last Black Unicorn
Staff member
Um No, I mean the fictional world is trademarked.
The fictional world within the book? Like, for example, the world in Lord of the Rings? Or the world in Harry Potter? That is a tricky question and I believe you should consult with a lawyer :)
 
I must admit that never have I ever thought about this. In theory, the fictional universe of a book should not be subjected to copyright as long as you do not use other parts that are, such as names, branding, logos and so on. The fact that you inspire yourself from a fictional universe does not mean you are copying it, it is, after all, your original work, your original stories with your original characters. There have been many "inspired" movies and TV series in the past, this shouldn't be an issue now. Regardless, consulting a law person is always a good idea, as the law differs in each country. Even the trademark and copyright only applies in some countries.
 

CTHJudeRules

New member
I must admit that never have I ever thought about this. In theory, the fictional universe of a book should not be subjected to copyright as long as you do not use other parts that are, such as names, branding, logos and so on. The fact that you inspire yourself from a fictional universe does not mean you are copying it, it is, after all, your original work, your original stories with your original characters. There have been many "inspired" movies and TV series in the past, this shouldn't be an issue now. Regardless, consulting a law person is always a good idea, as the law differs in each country. Even the trademark and copyright only applies in some countries.
I’m afraid you are misunderstanding me. For my next project I want to adapt a public domain novel that is set in a fictional world that the author’s estate has trademarked. I am doing a straightforward adaptation, not being “inspired by”.
 
A "trademark" does not last as long as copyright. Also, it only applies to a specific set of goods or services, not general concepts. So for this weird case, you would have to look at the actual trademark - they don't last forever, should expire within a relatively short time period. If the trademark is just asserted but not registered, it has no effect anyway. However, you should still be able to use the name if you acknowledge that it is a REGISTERED trademark by adding the (R) behind the name. If it is not a registered trademark, then you don't need to acknowledge. Finally, what is wrong with asking permission to use it?
 
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