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'To Kill a Mockingbird' Author Harper Lee Sues Ala. Museum

'To Kill a Mockingbird' Author Harper Lee Sues Ala. Museum

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Published by FindLaw
Harper Lee, reclusive author the classic novel "To Kill a Mockingbird," has sued her hometown museum claiming improper use of her name and the novel's title.

The author is seeking damages and an injunction against the Monroe County Heritage Museum in Monroeville, Ala., which uses the website ToKillaMockingBird.com.

Nelle Harper Lee, 87, won the Pulitzer Prize for her only book, which continues to sell around one million copies a year. It was made into a movie of the same name in 1962, and the lead role of Atticus Finch earned Gregory Peck a "Best Actor" Oscar.

In the lawsuit (attached below), Lee's lawyers claim the museum seeks to profit from the "unauthorized use of protected names and trademarks" of the author and the book's title.

Lee claims Monroeville's "desire to capitalize upon the fame of 'To Kill a Mockingbird' is unmistakable." The town logo for Monroeville also features an image of a mockingbird, her lawsuit points out.
Harper Lee, reclusive author the classic novel "To Kill a Mockingbird," has sued her hometown museum claiming improper use of her name and the novel's title.

The author is seeking damages and an injunction against the Monroe County Heritage Museum in Monroeville, Ala., which uses the website ToKillaMockingBird.com.

Nelle Harper Lee, 87, won the Pulitzer Prize for her only book, which continues to sell around one million copies a year. It was made into a movie of the same name in 1962, and the lead role of Atticus Finch earned Gregory Peck a "Best Actor" Oscar.

In the lawsuit (attached below), Lee's lawyers claim the museum seeks to profit from the "unauthorized use of protected names and trademarks" of the author and the book's title.

Lee claims Monroeville's "desire to capitalize upon the fame of 'To Kill a Mockingbird' is unmistakable." The town logo for Monroeville also features an image of a mockingbird, her lawsuit points out.

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Categories:Business/Law
Published by: FindLaw on Oct 18, 2013
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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10/19/2013

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IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURTSOUTHERN DISTRICT OF ALABAMASOUTHERN DIVISION
 NELLE HARPER LEE,Plaintiff,vs.MONROE COUNTY HERITAGEMUSEUM, INC.,Defendant.))))))))))Case No.: 1:13-cv-490
COMPLAINT
 The Complaint of Plaintiff NELLE HARPER LEE against DefendantMONROE COUNTY HERITAGE MUSEUM, INC. (the “Museum”), alleges asfollows:
PROLOGUE
1.
 
 Nelle Harper Lee, known to the world under the professional name,Harper Lee, wrote the world-famous and beloved novel
To Kill A Mockingbird.
 She wove a story of racial injustice, class conflict and the destruction of innocenceagainst the backdrop of the fictional Maycomb County, Alabama in the Jim Crowera. Although the story was set in the 1930’s, her realistic and highly critical
Case 1:13-cv-00490-WS-B Document 1 Filed 10/10/13 Page 1 of 25
 
 2 portrayal of Maycomb’s residents shone a harsh light on the attitudes of communities that were the focal point of the civil rights movement in the 1960’s.2.
 
Monroeville (the county seat of Monroe County, Alabama) is Harper Lee’s home. The town’s desire to capitalize upon the fame of 
To Kill A Mockingbird 
is unmistakable: Monroeville’s town logo features an image of amockingbird and the cupola of the Old County Courthouse, which was the settingfor the dramatic trial in
To Kill A Mockingbird.
 3.
 
The lightly-populated, rural county is also home to the Museum. TheMuseum seeks to profit from the unauthorized use of the protected names and trademarks of “Harper Lee” and “To Kill A Mockingbird.” It is a substantial business that generated over $500,000 in revenue for 2011, the last year for whichfigures are available.4.
 
The Museum claims repeatedly in its IRS Form 990 that its mission is“historical” (referring to “historical buildings”, “historical interest”, “historical presentations” and “historical events”), but its actual work does not touch uponhistory. Rather, its primary mission is to trade upon the fictional story, settings and characters that Harper Lee created in
To Kill A Mockingbird,
and Harper Lee’sown renown as one of the nation’s most celebrated authors.5.
 
Historical facts belong to the world, but fiction and trademarks are protected by law. The Museum has steadfastly ignored Ms. Lee’s demands that it
Case 1:13-cv-00490-WS-B Document 1 Filed 10/10/13 Page 2 of 25
 
 3cease and desist from its illegal action. The Museum has even attempted to block Ms. Lee’s federal registration of her trademark in TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD.Ms. Lee has no choice but to seek relief in this court.
NATURE OF THE ACTION
6.
 
This is an action to redress violations of the federal trademark infringement laws and federal law of unfair competition (15 U.S.C. § 1125(a)),federal trademark anti-dilution law (15 U.S.C. § 1125(c)), federalanticybersquatting law (15 U.S.C.§ 1125(d)), state trademark and anti-dilution law(Ala. Code § 8-12-6 et seq.), common law unfair competition, common lawtrademark infringement, unjust enrichment and common law violation of the rightof publicity, all as the result of willful and unauthorized use by Defendant of Plaintiff’s trademark and professional name, as more fully set forth hereinafter.7.
 
Plaintiff seeks permanent injunctive relief restraining infringement byDefendant of Plaintiff’s trademark and professional name, damages as the directand proximate result thereof, and related relief.
THE PARTIES
8.
 
Plaintiff Nelle Harper Lee is a natural person who resides inMonroeville, Alabama.
Case 1:13-cv-00490-WS-B Document 1 Filed 10/10/13 Page 3 of 25

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