'To Kill a Mockingbird' author in dispute with U.S. museum over book's title

BIRMINGHAM, Alabama Sat Sep 21, 2013 5:30am IST

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BIRMINGHAM, Alabama (Reuters) - The Pulitzer Prize-winning author of "To Kill a Mockingbird," Harper Lee, is locked in a dispute with a museum in her Alabama hometown over the use of the novel's title.

The 87-year-old author has filed an application seeking a trademark for the book's title when it is displayed on clothing and other merchandise.

The move is being challenged by the Monroe County Heritage Museum, which says it sells T-shirts and souvenirs with the words "To Kill a Mockingbird" to help fund its operations.

The museum, located in Monroeville, Alabama, is dedicated to the novel, widely considered a classic. The museum draws thousands of fans each year and includes an old courthouse that served as a model for the courtroom in the movie version of the novel that starred Gregory Peck.

Arguing against Lee's trademark application, the museum said it did not believe she was entitled to share in the profits from the sale of the merchandise. Museum officials did not immediately return calls for comment.

Robert Clarida, an attorney for Lee, said he believed his client should receive a portion of the proceeds. "Who is going to buy those T-shirts if they don't say 'To Kill a Mockingbird?'" he asked.

The book, which won the Pulitzer Prize in 1961 and has sold more than 30 million copies, tells the story of two children of an attorney growing up in a small Southern town.

Their father, who is white, is selected to defend a black man accused of raping a white woman, and the man is convicted despite his innocence.

It is the only novel that Lee ever published.

Earlier this month, Lee agreed to terminate a lawsuit she filed against her former agent that claimed she had been tricked into giving away the copyright to her novel. No details of the agreement were made public. (Reporting by Verna Gates and Melinda Dickinson; Editing by Kevin Gray and Eric Beech)

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