I have registered a website yodaguru.com. I intend to use it as a domain name for a product I am building. Does it violate the copyright law of the United States?

This character first appeared in the movie The Empire Strikes Back (1980). George Lucas, the screenwriter of the movie is still alive.

It is speculated that that name may be from the Sanskrit word "Yoddha" which means warrior, or the Hebrew name "Yodea" meaning "One who knows."

The copyright law of the United States says that exclusive rights generally expire 70 years after the author's death or 95 years after publication. Law talks about the derived word, does it also applies to the character name?

  • Related: Copyright FAQ
    – user35069
    Sep 9, 2022 at 7:25
  • Thanks, @Rick. Very helpful. It does say that character's name doesn't violate. But product name copying is a violation. What if I am using the character's name as the product name? Here intended use is as synonymous with wisdom. Sep 9, 2022 at 7:45
  • 3
    Copyright law isn't relevant here. What you really need to know is whether or not it violates trademark law.
    – nick012000
    Sep 9, 2022 at 8:18
  • I agree with @nick012000 Trademark law is much more likely to be a problem than copyright law in this case.
    – ohwilleke
    Sep 9, 2022 at 12:03
  • 1
    "product name copying is a violation": it is a violation, but it is not a copyright violation.
    – phoog
    Sep 9, 2022 at 20:25

3 Answers 3


Copyright is irrelevant, because names are not protected by copyright. Trademark is relevant: a name can be protected by a trademark. "Yoda" is a registered trademark owned by Lucasfilms, a subsidiary of Disney. There is a list of goods and services where the property right is asserted, so for example you could get sued for peddling art books under this name. It just depends on what your business does. For instance, a plumbing business isn't competing with Lucasfilms w.r.t. that class of goods and services.


Copyright law is irrelevant

Because the name “Yoda” cannot be copyrighted. Copyright protects artistic and literary expression- the way Yoda looks and the stories about him. Copyright in those lasts until 70 years after the death of their creator. I believe this was George Lucas and at the time of writing, he’s still alive.

The relevant law is trademark law. A trademark gives the owner (Disney) the exclusive right to use their distinctive mark (Yoda) in trade or commerce in the jurisdictions (USA and other places) and for the industries in which it is registered. This is “ toys, games and playthings, namely, toy candy dispensers and holders; costume masks; plush toys; toy action figures; Christmas tree ornaments”.

You are not Disney. If your product does not fall into those categories and you do not pretend any relationship with the Disney character, you’re fine.


YODA may qualify as a "well-known" trademark, with different rules.

If the PTO recognizes YODA as a "famous" or "well-known" trademark, then likely no one except the owner will be allowed to use it in any class of goods or services.


In my view, Disney can make a very strong argument that YODA is a famous mark. More importantly, they are one of the deepest pockets in the world and can tie you up in litigation for years.

I consider this a terrible idea.

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