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I'm far from ready to start a business at the moment, but I'm definitely considering it and working towards being more ready. That being said, I'm mostly considering starting my own restaurant, and I'm thinking of naming it "Jughead's Malt Shop", "Jughead's Diner", just "Jughead's" or something very similar (I can format it in a different fashion, such as Jug Head's, if that helps the legality of this). I'm worried about the Jughead part of the name mostly - the name would be inspired by a very iconic comic book character that's copyrighted by Archie Comics. They would most likely never become aware of the business and seeing that they don't publish comics in my country and haven't done so since 1997 they might not even care...but I don't want to take my chances.

(I'm based in Finland - I feel as if this might be very useful information)

(Jughead's Diner might be the worst name out of those three to choose because it's both the most boring one as well as the title of a comic book that has been published)

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Probably not, without permission.

Images of the character are usually copyrighted. The characters themselves are usually protected by trademark. Using the name of a fictional character without permission would imply endorsement by the firm that published works with that character. I've taken day long seminars focused mostly on all of the things that comic book companies do to protect their intellectual property rights in their characters.

Of course, if you live in Finland, it is likely that no one in the U.S. would decide to take up the case for a U.S. media property, either because they aren't aware of it, or because it isn't economically worthwhile to pursue.

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  • 1
    a fully fictional name like Kal'el or Spock gets all copyright protection in itself while Leonard McCoy is a name that is arguably less protectable (safe for being famous, Bones). Single, non-fictitious first names that can be written in various ways for various meanings - think Ichigo which is either a female name (first-girl), two kinds of Strawberry (cultivated or wild) or a concept - could possibly not give rise to any infringement, unless other indications make clear that you mean this one intellectual property character.
    – Trish
    Mar 18 at 10:33
  • 1
    Indeed, there are about 40 Leonard McCoys on LinkedIn who all might open a shop under their name legally - just they should not style it as a StarTrek thing... though it might be an interesting case if a Leonard McCoy opens up a comic shop... Perfect new question!
    – Trish
    Mar 18 at 10:37
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Copyright Issues

Thar Archie comics including the character of Jughead were fist published in 1942. They are still protected by copyright in the US, and almost certifiably in Finland as well, depending on who is considered the original author or authors, as Finland uses a Life+70 term, even for corporate copyrights, when an author can be identified.

The name "Jughead" is not protected by copyright, either under US law, or under the law of Finland. Names and short phrases are not protected by copyright in any country signatory to the Bern convention, which includes both the US and Finland.

The typical image of the Jughead character will be protected by copyright. Neither a copy of an image from the comics, nor a new image derived from that source may be used without permission from the copyright holder, which is probably Archie Comics, inc.

Use of a name such as "Jughead's" or "Jughead's Diner" without an image or logo, or with an image in no way derived from any image published as part of the comics, would not infringe any copyrights.

Trade Mark Issues

Protection of the name "Jughead" as a trademark in the US (which is likely but I have not confirmed it) is irrelevant. Only protection under the law of Finland will matter.

Protection can be obtained by registration with the Finnish Patent and Registration Office, or by an EU-wide registration.

In addition, protection can be obtained if a mark is "established in Finland." This happens when a mark "has become generally known in the relevant commercial or consumer sectors in Finland as a specific symbol of the proprietor’s goods." (See the WTR page below for more on this.) The WTR page says that for such establishment to occur:

the relevant group is required to associate the unregistered mark with the entity from which the goods or services originate. The target group needs to have a sufficient degree of awareness of the mark. This is assessed individually for each case and the required level of use depends heavily on the target group for the relevant goods or services. However, as a general principle the use must be nationwide and extensive.

So unless "Jughead" is registered in Finland, or in the EU-wide system, or is sufficiently well-known in Finland to be "established" there, there is no trademark protection for that mark in Finland, and using it is not an infringement.

Moreover, even if the mark is protected in Finland, trademarks generally protect only goods in the same general market category. If "Jughead" is a trademark protected in Finland, it is presumably related to an entertainment publication, not to a restaurant. However, if reasonable consumers could plausibly believe that the restaurant is sponsored, endorsed, or approved by the publishers of the comics, that would also be an infringement, provided that the mark is protected in Finland.

Conclusion

Use of any image from or based on the comic figure (without permission) would be an infringement of copyright. Use of the name would not.

Use of the name might be an infringement of a trademark in Finland, IF the name is protected as a trademark in Finland. Significant research, beyond the scope of this site, would be needed to determine if such protection applies. A Finnish trademark lawyer might be able to help with that.

Sources

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  • Shouldn't it be easy to find out if there is a registered trademark? For example in the UK I found this: trademarks.ipo.gov.uk/ipo-tmcase/page/Results/1/UK00001401824 Admittedly, it says "up for renewal in 2016" and I really don't know what's the legal significance of that, since today is about five years after the renewal date. (Checked further, status was changed to "Dead" on 25 October 2017).
    – gnasher729
    Mar 31 at 10:19
  • @gnasher Checking for a registerefed trademark shoulf be relativly easy, althoguh both the Finlkand national registry and the nEU-wide registry must be checked. It is checkign if the names is sufficiently well known to be "established" as an unregistered, but protected mark that wold take significant research to determine the standards for that, and tyo see how well known the mark actually is. Mar 31 at 13:08

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