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Using the Grinch in photos to make money could empty your piggy bank: experts

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From the top of the corporate mountain, Dr. Seuss Enterprises taps its fingers against a snow-covered rock like the scene in ‘The Grinch’ cartoon when the Grinch is repulsed at the bustling, happy town of Whoville. 

Instead of the green meanie plotting how to stop Christmas, the real-life corporation issues cease and desist letters and can take legal action against anyone using the Grinch’s image and likeness to make money.

One particular clash in 2019 went viral, and as trademark lawyer John Rizvi said in a blog post, Jacob Marley’s ghost returns every holiday season with warnings to photographers.

‘Friendly reminder that doing Grinch photo sessions FOR A PROFIT is federal trademark infringement, and Dr. Seuss Int. literally hires out a team this time of year to reverse image search and sue photogs for profit,’ Tennessee-based photographer Brittany Kay wrote in a Facebook warning. 

‘Unless you got $120,000 for a license, that’s not a lawsuit you will win!’

Which prompts the question that Rizvi, aka The Patent Professor, asked in his blog post: ‘Has Dr. Seuss lost the plot and become the very character he lampooned, or are photographers and crafters really the ones who are trying to steal Christmas here?’

The Grinch is a registered trademark and covered under copyright law until Jan. 1, 2062, at the very earliest, Rizvi said. 

Copyright laws are ‘intended to protect original creations,’ and trademark law ‘prevents mark dilution and brand confusion,’ according to The Patent Professor.

And from a legal standpoint, the trademark and copyright holder ‘is required to defend their intellectual property against infringement and unauthorized use,’ Rizvi said. 

‘Dr. Seuss Enterprises isn’t the bad guy.’

— Trademark lawyer John Rizvi

That means ‘using all legal mechanisms at their disposal,’ he wrote. ‘If you don’t use these protections, you could easily lose them, and the right to your IP altogther.’

While there’s the outside appearance of Dr. Seuss Enterprises being grinchy to protect the Grinch, it’s actually its obligation to crack down on unauthorized use, Rizvi said.

‘While it’s tempting for laypeople to paint them as the antagonists here, Dr. Seuss Enterprises isn’t the bad guy,’ the Florida-based lawyer said. ‘Nor, for that matter, is Dr. Seuss himself, who died in 1991.’

This controversy boiled over in 2019, when Arkansas photographer Kim Durham snapped pictures of a teenager dressed as the Grinch surrounded by children as they recreated the night the green meanie stole Christmas. 

The photos went viral, and the story was picked up by major national news outlets. 

Durham’s Christmas present from Dr. Seuss Enterprises was a cease and desist letter that demanded all the digital and physical copies of the photos be destroyed, that she refrain from posting Grinch-themed pictures in the future and that she cancel all scheduled Grinch-themed photo shoots, Rizvi said. 

Durham ultimately complied, and the corporation’s heart grew three sizes and settled the issue without taking money.

FStoppers, a photography-based news outlet, issued a warning last week about this issue. 

The Dec. 10 story included several of Rizvi’s points while emphasizing how Dr. Seuss Enterprises’ ‘actively protects its intellectual property rights, especially during the holiday season.’

‘While holiday-themed photoshoots are a delightful part of the season, photographers must be cautious about using copyrighted characters like The Grinch for profit,’ the FStoppers story said. 

‘It is advisable to either obtain the necessary licenses or avoid using such themes in commercial sessions to prevent legal complications and safeguard your business.’

Fox News Digital reached out to Dr. Seuss Enterprises with questions, but it didn’t immediately respond. 

Rizvi summed up the easiest ‘workaround’: ‘Just get the license!’

This post appeared first on FOX NEWS

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