'To Kill a Mockingbird' novelist sues over trademark

Story highlights

  • Harper Lee sues Monroe County Heritage Museum in her hometown
  • "The museum seeks to profit from the unauthorized use of ... trademarks," the suit says
  • It says the museum's "primary mission" is to "trade upon" the story she created
  • The museum's attorney lambastes "Harper Lee's greedy handlers"
Author Harper Lee has not published a novel in more than a half-century, but her words in federal court seek to protect the 87-year-old's best-known intellectual property, "To Kill a Mockingbird."
The Alabama writer has sued her hometown Monroe County Heritage Museum for trademark infringement, saying it is illegally using her fame for its own gain.
"The museum seeks to profit from the unauthorized use of the protected names and trademarks of 'Harper Lee' and 'To Kill a Mockingbird.' It is a substantial business that generated over $500,000 in revenue for 2011, the last year for which figures are available," said the lawsuit filed last week. "But its actual work does not touch upon history. Rather, its primary mission is to trade upon the fictional story, settings and characters that Harper Lee created."
The reclusive author still lives in the county, about 105 miles from Montgomery in the southern part of the state. It was the inspiration for the fictional Maycomb County. Set in the segregated South, the 1960 novel -- the only one Lee wrote -- won a Pulitzer Prize and was made into an Academy Award-winning movie.
It deals with a local attorney's r