Muscling in on Popeye

It’s been 70 years since Popeye creator Elzie Segar died, and on January 1 the spinach-eating sailor will fall into the public domain in Britain under an EU law that sets the limit on copyright. News reports encourage the belief that beginning Thursday anyone can print and sell Popeye art and paraphernalia without paying any royalties.

Then again:

The Popeye trademark, a separate entity to Segar’s authorial copyright, is owned by King Features, a subsidiary of the Hearst Corporation — the US entertainment giant — which is expected to protect its brand aggressively.

Mark Owen, an intellectual property specialist at the law firm Harbottle & Lewis, said: “The Segar drawings are out of copyright, so anyone could put those on T-shirts, posters and cards and create a thriving business. If you sold a Popeye toy or Popeye spinach can, you could be infringing the trademark.”

My musical instincts tell me:

Lawyers will fight to the finish
Over rights to the spinach
From Popeye the Sailor Man (toot-toot!)

[Thanks to Taral Wayne for the link.]

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