Conan Doyle estate ltd resumes culture of litigation. latest target: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle literary estate.

10 Aug 2015

After five years of trading, Conan Doyle Estate Ltd (CDE), a private company owned by eight of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s distant relatives and US literary agent Jon Lellenberg, is best known for provoking 7th US Circuit Court Judge Posner to declare that the Sherlock Holmes character is in the public domain in the US.

CDE claims that it owns the US copyrights to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories. Under that premise, the company uses litigation or the threat of litigation to extract revenue from licensees of the actual copyright holders. One of these licensees is Warner Bros. A year after the Arthur Conan Doyle Literary Estate granted Warner Bros a licence to produce a series of Sherlock Holmes films starring Robert Downy Jr, CDE approached Warner Bros. demanding a license fee. Warner Bros. eventually chose to pay them off in exchange for the signing of a Covenant not to Sue.

In May of this year, CDE lodged a complaint against Miramax, Mitch Cullin (author), Roadside attractions LLC, Penguin Random House LLC and William Condon (director) over the film Mr Holmes released this July. Miramax accepted a settlement to avoid litigation.

Now that the copyrights are in the public domain in Europe, Conan Doyle Estate Ltd. is redirecting its strategy towards trademark litigation. On the 10th of August, the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle Literary Estate became CDE’s latest target. CDE has filed oppositions and or revocations to a number of European Trademarks that the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle Literary Estate has owned and used for over 15 years.