Is a fictional character legally recognized as intellectual property and thus protected by either copyright or trademark or else by principles of unfair competition? The very popularity of latter-day fictional heroes renders them vulnerable to appropriation, innocent as well as illicit. Such heroes represent valuable properties in the entertainment marketplace, and the courts frequently are called on to protect them. It has been said that protection of these properties is either nonexistent or inadequate.
The question and a negative response to it are not only of concern to the legal community. Those who create or promote fictional characters for all the media of popular culture need a pragmatic understanding of how and to what extent their creations can be legally protected. Authors and other artists need to know the limitations of legal protection, along with the more subtle pitfalls for the unwary. Only then will they understand the essential ingredients of effective licensing agreements. Only then is the artist who is inspired to build on another's creation apprised of the subtle borderline separating legitimate development from an illicit taking.