What are you wearing for Halloween? Who will you be?  To me, the best part of Halloween dress-up is becoming a character and surprising everyone who can’t believe that it’s me behind that mask or under that wig.  I know it’s predictable; but my costume choices often center on fashion.  Best example: my 2013 Halloween turn as Anna Wintour.

Character costumes are huge for Halloween.  A quick internet search shows that one of the most googled Halloween costume ideas for 2015 is Suicide Squad character Harley Quinn – the sometimes girlfriend of Batman’s nemesis, The Joker. Other top costume picks for 2015 include Batman and The Joker as well as other superheroes and villains.  Star Wars characters are always popular for Halloween, as are Disney characters – especially among the younger set.  But did you know that each of these characters is the intellectual property of its creator?  Under certain circumstances, using them without a license could be an infringement of the creator’s intellectual property rights.

Fortunately for Halloween revelers, simply dressing up as a character isn’t the kind of use that requires an intellectual property license.  Licensing issues typically arise when someone without rights uses the intellectual property associated with a character for profit.  For example, a woman dresses as a Disney princess and attends children’s parties “in character” in exchange for a fee without a license from Disney to do so. Granted, make-believing you’re a Disney princess (or other licensed character) at a local children’s party for a small sum is probably not going to result in a cease and desist letter in your mailbox.  But it would be an infringement on the creator’s rights in the character.  And, the more prominent the use and the higher the profit resulting from use of the character, the greater the likelihood the infringement will be noticed and action taken.

Infringement also occurs when a character is used without the creator’s permission to create and sell merchandise (think character masks and costumes).  Unlicensed merchandise can be as simple as a t-shirt with a character image printed on it offered for sale without permission of the character’s creator.  Fortunately, most costume-shops and retailers offer officially licensed merchandise. When shopping for a character ensemble, acknowledge the intellectual property rights of the character’s creator by buying officially licensed masks, costumes, and accessories necessary to convincingly become that character.

As for me and this year’s Halloween costume,  I’m thinking Karl Lagerfeld. Iconic.  Immediately recognizable.  I’ve got the sunglasses, the suit, and a Choupette look-alike.  Now, where can I get an officially licensed Lagerfeld mask?