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Is it legal to use really old names in a manager style game? It there an expiration on name license rights?

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Each person has the right to control the commercial use of their name. Even if they are dead, I believe the family retains commercial control. It is best to contact an actual lawyer on this matter. –  eazimmerman Jul 2 '13 at 13:13
    
going back far enough, there is an expiration even on Mickey Mouse. would there be something similar for human names? –  Noam Ben Zvi Jul 2 '13 at 13:16
    
@eazimmerman Even Leonardo Da Vinci or Julius Caesar? –  Alayric Jul 2 '13 at 13:23
    
@Alayric I'd say anything older than a century is fair game. (Disclaimer: I'm not a lawyer) –  eazimmerman Jul 2 '13 at 14:34
    
I was hoping to get in players before 1950, which are still considered legends and are fun to play with –  Noam Ben Zvi Jul 2 '13 at 15:29
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1 Answer 1

License rights are not public rights. Licensing rights are contracts given to a single company or individual. The terms of which are decided upon a case by case basis. The license is for the use of various things, including Brands, Trademarks and Logos.

In the case of people's names, it's the trademark that's being licensed. Trademarks never expire as long as they're in use (along with some paperwork and fees).

You need to go on a name by name basis, and check if any trademarks exist for the name you want to use. You can do a trademark search here for the US. When you find a trademark, you'll need to contact the owner and create a license agreement. If you don't find a trademark, use at your own risk! There's always the possibility you're breaking some other use law.

If you plan on doing this, it's highly recommended you get a lawyer for advice. Basing large decisions such as "am I breaking the law or not" shouldn't be left up to the advice of some stranger on the internet.

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