I would like to name my S-corp after a character from a book. This is not the real name I want to use, but it would be analogous to "Harry Potter Magic Shop".

I found one tangentially related question and the highest voted answer seems to imply that this is okay, but it wasn't entirely clear, there was no accepted answer and this situation might be different because I don't want to use the book's title but rather just a character's name in the book.

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    Harry Potter books are still in copyright. Is the book your character's from copyrighted or public domain? Harry Potter is well known around the world. Is your character well known around the world? Harry Potter characters are heavily and actively merchandised by entities licensed to do so. Is your character heavily and actively merchandised by entities licensed to do so? If you want to start an Official Bugs Bunny Birthday Bash center for kids' birthdays the answer is "don't". The Best of All Possible Pangloss Pizza and Pop Shops? Go for it.
    – Patrick87
    Commented Jun 18, 2016 at 18:13
  • @Patrick87 My books are still under copyright, though the author is dead and ithey're probably 50-70 years old. They were high profiles books at the time though not as popular now. But OTOH they were saying that Exxon was ruled not to own the word Exxon, etc. For safety of course I would want to assume that if the heirs of the intellectual property could take legal action to make me give them money or change the name then they would do it, and if that's the case I don't want to use that name. So to be conservative just assume the worst like it's Harry Potter (though it's not really).
    – Hack-R
    Commented Jun 18, 2016 at 18:17
  • @Patrick87 Copyright is irrelevant, since names can't be copyrighted. You're looking at trademark law here, and trademarks last as long as they're in active use in commerce. Commented Mar 1 at 14:54

1 Answer 1


A name cannot enjoy copyright protection. The US Copyright Office says so in their circular Copyright Protection Not Available for Names, Titles, or Short Phrases, specifically

Even if a name, title, or short phrase is novel or distinctive or lends itself to a play on words, it cannot be protected by copyright. The U.S. Copyright Office cannot register claims to exclusive rights in brief combinations of words such as...

followed by various forms of names. A name can enjoy trademark protection. The easier case is to look up the name to see if it is registered. The US Patent and Trademark Office has a search page allowing you to look stuff up. More challenging is the common law trademark, which need not be registered. But as far as I can tell, a common law trademark is about a business brand name, and wouldn't arise from using a name from a novel.

To take a concrete example, the fictitious name "Galt" figures in quite a number of registered trademarks (none having been registered by the author).

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