The role of character, when it comes to copyright, has set precedent in the IP world. Following the recent case, the Intellectual Property Enterprise Court made the notable judgment that the character of ‘Derek Trotter’ or ‘Del Boy’ from the famous sitcom, ‘Only Fools and Horses’ should be protected by copyright and recognised as a ‘literary work’.

The case is significant as it’s the first instance an English court has made a ruling based on the features of a fictional character (for instance, the character’s usage of sales phraseology, cheerful outlook, questionable use of the French language, among other traits) rather than the unauthorised reproduction of the television show’s scripts. The legal analysis looked at two areas – firstly that the character was an original intellectual creation of John Sullivan, and secondly that the character has been represented in a copyrighted literary work. The court accepted that it had been on both counts.


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