The brazenness of the Conan Doyle Estate Limited continues to know no bounds. A glossy new website,, falsely claims “ownership” of U.S. trademarks in the character of Sherlock Holmes (it has applied for a broad range of trademarks but does not own them yet–and will not if the public speaks up). The CDEL’s website also ironically thanks the “donors and supporters” of the Estate, including Warner Bros., PBS, and CBS-TV, who paid license fees extorted from them (not my characterization–see the 7th Circuit’s opinion in Klinger v. CDEL, at by means of baseless threat of suits for copyright infringement.
Has the CDEL no shame? We love Arthur Conan Doyle and honor his memory–but this continued cynical exploitation of expired rights is shameful. By 2023, none of the Sherlock Holmes stories written by ACD will be protected by copyright anywhere in the world. Will the CDEL stop its “corrupt business practices” (in the words of Judge Posner) then? Don’t hold your breath.
The fight for “Free Sherlock” is far from over!


  1. David R. McCallister on December 12, 2016 at 10:38 am

    What is the most effective way for those of us in the public to speak up?

    • Leslie S. Klinger on December 12, 2016 at 10:52 am

      You can write a letter to the U.S. agent, David Reeder, or the U.K. agent. More importantly, you can write to the US Patent & Trademark Office, opposing the CDEL trademark applications on the grounds that it’s too late–the mark of Sherlock Holmes has been used in commerce for an enormous variety of products for more than 100 years without restriction.

  2. Tom Crammond on December 13, 2016 at 12:52 am

    Sherlock Holmes has been in public domain for years. Greed is not a reason to change!

  3. Michael J. on December 24, 2016 at 12:01 am

    If they are trying to represent the interests of Doyle, one would wonder if Doyle would want them to monopolize a market like this. I don’t think he would. I think an author has to realize eventually their works will expire and should stay that way.

  4. Jennifer Thurmer on February 22, 2017 at 7:56 pm

    If an institution or a member of the public wish to use (in a publication) photographs of Conan Doyle and/or his family taken in the 1920s or before can they be used without permission from his estate, or elsewhere? Apologies if this is too difficult a question. I find it extremely difficult to learn who owns what, and many websites, sadly, do not provide references to sources, or who owns the material. Many thanks.

  5. Dr.Georg Ramsauer on May 24, 2018 at 3:15 am

    Very informative for me as a Sherlock Holmes fan

  6. Dr. Georg Ramsauer on June 8, 2018 at 2:07 am

    I am a great fan of Conan Doyle and Sherlock Holmes

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