Individuals in the public eye in Texas and around the country who have intellectual property ownership of their likeness must always be on the lookout for any copyright infringement while they are alive. But, what happens to ownership of their likeness when they pass? The truth is that any trademark or “marketable traits” of an individual can actually be passed on as inherited property or designated for ownership assignment before death in a last will and testament. And, even for those who pass intestate, the property can be claimed by a family member.
Marketable trait registration
Some forms of intellectual property can be officially registered with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. However, Texas residents who have a relative with a marketable trait can register with the Texas Secretary of State with some restrictions. The primary restriction is the one-year waiting period immediately following death of the primary trait holder. Texas law allows that traits can include photographs, vocal traits, name, and likeness of the deceased relative.
Registration is actually an option
Registering a marketable trait with the Texas government is not absolutely necessary for the rightful owner to claim an infringement or unauthorized use of a specific trait. Reasonable proof of ownership can suffice. The problem is that cases where the infringing party can be held financially accountable can be much more difficult without the registration proof. It is advisable to have an entertainment and media lawattorney who has experience with these types of intellectual property matters handling the case, and anyone who is pursuing damages for unauthorized use of any trait will need experienced legal counsel.