With remarkable speed, the Seventh Circuit issued its opinion today, upholding the ruling of the District Court in our favor in Klinger v. Conan Doyle Estate, Ltd. The opinion itself can be found on the www.free-sherlock.com website.
The results are:
(a) Our new book, In the Company of Sherlock Holmes, will come out in November as planned. The contributions are fantastic. Pegasus Books has been hard at work, galleys are in hand, and we are looking forward to getting the book into your hands. The book can be pre-ordered from the usual suspects.
(b) Creators throughout the U.S. are now free to publish new works using the characters of Holmes and Watson. It’s true that the Estate retains copyrights in 10 of the Case-Book stories, and the elements of those stories are protected by copyright. However, the “fair use” doctrine will permit use of many elements without license. For example, I believe that a story that happens to mention Watson’s rugby career (without being a story about that career) would likely be protected by “fair use.”
The Estate has pounded the drum about its “trademark” rights. To set the record straight: The Estate has applied for trademarks across a broad range of goods and services. The Estate’s applications are pending and, according to most experts, are unlikely to be granted. Of course, this does not stop the Estate from attempting to dissuade people from using the characters of Holmes and Watson, through the Estate’s tried-and-true technique of threatening to block distribution. Hopefully, creators will take heart from our victory today and stand up to bullies, whoever they may be and whatever legal claims they may make.
Thanks to countless friends and colleagues for their support in our efforts!