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  • Writer's pictureDenny Esford

The Scariest Halloween Costume? Copyright Infringement

Halloween is here, and while you may already have your costume picked out, we thought we’d remind you of the intellectual property issues that come every year. Pop culture Halloween costumes are historically some of the most popular costumes. We see many kids and adults dressed like Harry Potter, characters from Star Wars, and Disney princesses. These costumes often cost a lot of money, and in an effort to avoid high prices, other companies make competing knock off costumes.

While this may seem harmless, depending on the costume it constitute copyright or trademark infringement. In an effort to avoid infringement, manufacturers of these costumes have to make them JUST different enough to avoid infringing on the rights of the original companies. In intellectual property parlance this is called creating a work that is sufficiently “transformative” from the original. This is why you see so many costumes with names that seem strange, such, Mario and Luigi costumes marketed as “Sidekick Bros” or “Video Game Guys,” while Cher from Clueless is shown as “Notionless” and Princess Elsa is “Fantasy Snow Queen.”

While it is funny to see the names these companies come up with, remember that it is all to avoid a lawsuit, because they don’t own any rights to these characters. The difference between these two kinds of costume sellers, besides the price, is that the more reputable ones actually go to the original companies and get a license from them to produce the costumes that portray these characters. That is also why these costumes always look better – they are allowed to make them exactly the same as the originals, and they don’t have to tweak them to avoid legal action.

Enjoy your Halloween, but keep this in mind as there are few things scarier than a lawsuit!

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