Copyright for Cartoon Character Names

edited May 2015 in - Writing Problems
Quick question please, I'm hoping someone out there in the ether might know the answer.

I have written a short story in which the main character's daughter is said to imagine herself as 'Spongebob' which would make her sister 'Patrick' and him 'Squidworth'. For those in the know these are characters from Spongebob Squarepants. This is the only reference to the character names in the story.

Does anyone know if I can use these names in this manner without infringing Copyright or Trademark legislation? I have tried to look this up but I'm struggling to find a definitive answer. It is not essential to the story but it was a small detail in it that I liked.

Thanks TBers


  • Isn't this a British cartoon? I always ask the people involved... email them?
  • If it's just a mention I believe you'll be OK. Using them as characters in any way is out though.
  • Just checked here:

    "SpongeBob SquarePants: © 2015 Viacom International Inc. All Rights Reserved. Nickelodeon, SpongeBob SquarePants and all related titles, logos and characters are trademarks of Viacom International Inc. Created by Stephen Hillenburg."
  • Ah, that sounds American and they are much more fussy...
  • Thanks guys
  • Doesn't mean they can't be mentioned though. You can, for example, say a character drank a glass of Coke even though Coke is trademarked.

    Personally I wouldn't ask for permission. If you do, you can't do anything until they say yes and they might not ever respond, or might want payment or to set all kind of restrictions ... Didn't this come up when someone asked for permission to mention a guidebook in their novel?

  • Squidward!
  • Gary's my favourite.
  • Hold on, is it Squidward??
  • As far as I know, it's legal to mention any fictional character or name of a book, song, etc. What you can't do is write a Spongebob Squarepants story, using the actual characters and settings, or quote dialogue from an episode. Same with songs: "Simon turned up the radio. They were playing All Along the Watchtower." - but you can't quote the lyrics from All Along the Watchtower.

    "Jenny had that Marge Simpson gravel in her voice; although her hair was short and not blue -- not today." That would be okay.
  • Although if you're thinking of writing, "She reminded me of Scarlett Johansson", you might want to think twice ;)
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