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Is your character's name copyrighted?

Have you ever met someone with exactly the same name that you have? For those of us with unique names, it's uncommon, but for those with more prevalent and popular names, it does happen. We usually laugh it off.

When it happens to a writer, though, they may feel a bit differently. If they create a character and then someone else writes a book about a character with the same name, they can feel like it dilutes their brand. They may feel like the person simply stole the name. Won't a copyright prevent that?

Not really. The novel itself is copyrighted, but you can't own a character's name under copyright laws.

The way to protect against this is to trademark the name. This is similar to what writers can do with their book titles, which also aren't copyrighted. If it's important to their branding, they can trademark the name (which may be included in the title) so that no one else can steal it.

For some characters with general names simply meant to identify them within the story, this may not be an issue. For a character who is the brand, though, it can be huge. Think of a character like James Bond or Harry Potter. It's clear that some character names carry a lot more weight than others and even help to identify stories, books and entire worlds that authors have created. If those get stolen, it's a problem.

Are you a writer who wants to protect their work or who has found stolen information? You have legal options, so be sure you know exactly what they are.

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