How doI tell if a name is copyrighted?

UPDATED: Mar 9, 2012

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How doI tell if a name is copyrighted?

I am creating a videogame and want to make sure the name I want for it isn’t copyrighted.

Asked on March 9, 2012 under Business Law, Virginia


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

It's almost impossible to know for sure, since someone who has created an original work using that name can have copyright (or trademark) even if he/she has not registered the copyright (or trademark)--registration gives the rights holder some additional protections, but is not, strictly speaking required for copyright or trademark (though it is required for patents).

Still, you can form a good idea of whether anyone has rights to that name or not by:

1) Go to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) website and search their databases.

2) Do several websearches, using more than one search engine, for the name; search not just for the name as you'd like to spell it, but for other possible variations. For example, say you want to name a game "Crazy" (to use an overly simple example)--search "crazy," "krazy," "krazee," "crazee," "cray-zee," etc.).

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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