The New York Times reports that Leslie Klinger, author and attorney, has won a lawsuit against the Conan Doyle Estate to avoid licensing fees for the use of Sherlock Holmes characters in a 2013 book he co-edited with Laurie R. King. Reuben Castillo, Illinois federal court judge, agreed that pre-1923 Sherlock Holmes and other characters and elements conceived by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle are now in the public domain, no longer copyright protected.
I wish I had this problem—authors fighting over use of my mystery characters. I created Detective Taylor Madrid, my protagonist, so she’s my “intellectual property.” She has yet to journey beyond the printed page in critique drafts, although her goal is to face cover out on the shelves of independent bookstores. While she waits, a member of my critique group (an attorney), suggests that I make provisions in my estate for this unpublished manuscript so Madrid doesn’t vanish when I do.
Until then, Detective Madrid may wear a Sherlock hat pinned with a Maricopa County Sheriff’s badge. She may even repeat the misquoted “Elementary, my dear Watson,” to Sergeant Gavin O’Sullivan. But she won’t smoke a pipe or speak any post-1923 Sherlockian.