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'To Kill a Mockingbird' author Harper Lee sues Alabama museum

October 16, 2013|By David Ng
  • Harper Lee
Harper Lee (Donald Uhrbrock / PBS )

Harper Lee, the author of the 1960 classic novel "To Kill a Mockingbird," is suing a museum in her hometown of Monroeville, Ala., for what she claims is its improper use of her name and the novel's title.

The author, who is seeking an injunction and damages, also claims that the museum has sought to block her trademark on the novel.

The Monroe County Heritage Museum is a historic organization that manages six venues in the county. In documents filed earlier this month in federal court, Lee's lawyers say that the museum seeks to profit from the "unauthorized use of protected names and trademarks" of the author and the book's title.

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On its official website, the museum makes prominent references to "To Kill a Mockingbird." (The museum's Web address is The gift shop also sells a number of items related to Lee, according to the website.

The lawsuit, which was first reported by the Courthouse News Service, contends that the museum has attempted "to confuse, mislead and deceive the public" into believing that the merchandise is associated with or is endorsed by the author. The merchandise in question includes clothing, bags, linens, stationery, glassware and car decals, according to legal documents.

The author states the museum was responsive to past requests to cease its "infringing activity," but that in recent years, its actions have "grown more brazen." She contends that the museum has made substantial money from the use of her name and the book's title, generating $500,000 in revenue in 2011. 

The court papers state that the 87-year-old Lee is in ill health, having suffered a stroke. The author recently settled a separate lawsuit against a descendant of her former literary agent in which she contended that her copyright on the novel had not been properly protected.

Museum officials could not be immediately reached for comment.


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