According to a report on CNN.com, Harper Lee, the novelist who wrote “To Kill a Mockingbird,” is suing her hometown museum for trademark infringement. In the suit, the 87-year-old Lee alleges that the Alabama-based Monroe County Heritage Museum is unlawfully using her fame as well as her intellectual property for its own gain.
“The museum seeks to profit from the unauthorized use of the protected names and trademarks of Harper Lee and ‘To Kill a Mockingbird,’” read a copy of the lawsuit obtained by CNN. “It is a substantial business that generated over $500,000 in revenue for 2011, the last year for which figures are available. But its actual work does not touch upon history. Rather, its primary mission is to trade upon the fictional story, settings and characters that Harper Lee created.”
The museum’s website is www.tokillamockingbird.com and it has six historic sites around the county that collectively tell the history of Monroe County, including the literary legacy of famous residents, such as Harper Lee and Truman Capote, who grew up in the area and were childhood friends.
“Every single statement in the lawsuit is either false, meritless, or both,” Matthew Goforth, a Birmingham-based attorney hired for the museum, told CNN. “It is sad that Harper Lee’s greedy handlers have seen fit to attack the non-profit museum in her hometown that has been honoring her legacy and the town’s rich history associated with that legacy for over 20 years. Unfortunately for Harper Lee, those handlers are doing nothing but squandering her money with this lawsuit. The museum is squarely within its rights to carry out its mission as it always has.”
Although the Monroe County Heritage Museum is a non-profit museum, it does have a gift shop called the Bird’s Nest, which sells “To Kill a Mockingbird” memorabilia, T-shirts and cookware.
“Historical facts belong to the world, but fiction and trademarks are protected by law,” read the lawsuit.
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