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Friday, 7 November 2003


Recently in the news is Missouri motorist Daniel Smith. When stopped by police near Independence, Missouri, following a driving accident, threatened to sue them under copyright laws if they wrote down his name. Smith, 45, allegedly told officers his name was copyright protected and that, every time it appeared on their documents, he would launch a $500,000 lawsuit. He reputedly added that, if his claim wasn't paid within 10 days, it would cost them $1.5 million and that, if they didn’t pay up at that point, judgments would be entered against all parties involved and their property.

The IPKat marvels at Smith’s cheek. Even if copyright vested in a name (which does not appear to be the case: see Exxon Corporation v Exxon Insurance Consultants [1982] Ch 119), he suspects that Smith is not its author and wonders whether title to his name devolved to him as a beneficiary of his parents’ estate. The only plausible thing about Smith’s assertion (viewed from a European perspective) is the generous scale of the damages you can get in the United States.

Copyright in names? Not for Ewoks or Elvis
What is copyright infringement? Find out here, here and here
Copyright infringement damages issues here and here

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