BBC sends legal threat over fan's Dr Who knitting patterns

Glyn sez, "Mazz has been posting knitting patterns to help other people re-create characters from the cult series using only two sticks and ball of wool. Impressive? The BBC, producers of the series, didn't think so. They sent Mazz a letter, which states:"
We note that you are supplying DR WHO items, and using trade marks and copyright owned by BBC. You have not been given permission to use the DR WHO brand and we ask that you remove from your site any designs connected with DR WHO. Please reply acknowledging receipt of this email, and confirm that you will remove the DR WHO items as requested."
Link (Thanks, Glyn!)


  1. … (1), the BBC can’t even spell their own trademark right (“DOCTOR WHO”, not “DR WHO”).

    … and (2), the BBC really oughta be expecting a letter from Hasbro about the Ood’s infringement on Mind Flayers, especially after the Ood’s last appearance.

  2. Seems the Beeb would get a better relation to their public if they instead followed the NRKbeta doctrine:

    “The only way to control your content is to be the best provider of it”

    In this instance, BBC should either provide better Doctor Who knitting patterns or shut up and be happy somebody cared deeply enough for Doctor Who to make these patterns.


  3. Wait, that’s from Doctor Who?

    Looks like Cthulhu enjoying a juice box, albiet with a very long, bendy straw. Presumably it would be ‘people & apple’ flavour, or some equally evil concoction, so long as it had ‘no bits’, he’s a finicky little fella.

  4. I think the issue is that they have to defend the trademark, otherwise they lose it. I’d imagine Mazz could get away with just removing the Doctor Who reference, though the BBC could still complain about copyright infringement, but that would be somewhat petty.

  5. Eai@4: No, that’s just a fairy tale that trademark lawyers tell their clients to justify their billings. In practice, it’s unheard of for courts to allow truly deceptive uses of marks, even if this kind of use has been allowed. For example, we all use “to google” as a generic way to describe searching, but there’s zero chance that Microsoft could launch a campaign called “Google it with MSN Search” without losing the ensuing courtroom battle.

  6. I haven’t been following the latest series, but that looks totally like an Illithid to me. A big, fuzzy, woolly Illithid come to suck the lint right out of you.

    Although facial tentacles aren’t anything particularly new. Cthulhu, Draenei, and don’t forget, you still have Zoidberg.


  7. Nifty fan art; the guy is posting this stuff to the web, and so not even seeking commercial gain.

    Maybe Mazz can ask to become officially licensed to produce knitted Dr. Who products for the BBC, or offer to sell them the knitting patterns.

    I hate to see overzealous intellectual property law squelch genuine creativity that is trying to bring something new and beautiful into the world for all to enjoy.

  8. BBC surely knows how to alienate fans (and not in the cool alien way). They hunt youtube fan videos like wabits!

  9. @ #5
    The first line could have been forgiven, but the second? No, no second chances. That’s the kind of man I am.

  10. Obnoxious action by the BBC? Yes. But at least they warned/threatened Mazz instead of simply taking legal action. It’s a good thing for Mazz that Doctor Who wasn’t a Fox News Channel series.

  11. Cory @6; whilst trade mark loss by dilution isn’t a complete myth, I’m only aware of one major instance of it – Sony lost exclusive rights to ‘Walkman’ in Austria on the basis that it had become a generic term. But as this Wired article notes, that decision was generally regarded as very unusual:

  12. Simon, “Walkman” was lost because Sony had the stupid temerity to sue a DICTIONARY for describing the term (accurately) as generic. IOW, they forced a judge to decide between giving them exclusive rights, or censoring whether lexicographers could legitimately publish their observations about the way people spoke.

  13. Hey, is that a car I see in this Dr Who episode? Which brand? Okay car company, sue!
    Gee wizz, what is Dr Who wearing today? Which brand? Okay clothing company, sue!
    I wonder which cameras were used to record this Dr Who episode. Were they mentioned in the credits? No? Sue!
    Who is that actor? Who are his parents? Did they give permission for him to play a role in this series? No? Sue!


  14. She could change the name of the Ood pattern to Cthulhu drinking a fruity cocktail…

  15. I wonder what would happen if you gave directions for making ^U^U

    never mind, it’s already out there: provides knitting instructions.

  16. The Daleks are behind this.


    There have been some insightful and hilarious comments on this post.


  17. Um…but…is anyone else excited we finally see the doctors, presumably half human, offspring this week?

  18. For a minute I thought they had taken the Tom Baker scarf patterns off line…

    I hate it when companies do lousy things like this. I boycotted Circuit City in 1996 over a matter of $2, and subsequently bought a few thousand dollars of electronics over the years from anyone but them. I boycotted Sony recently over their shady business practices and didn’t consider then when buying a $3000 TV.

    That’s all you can really do when companies get greedy. As much as I like Doctor Who I’m not going to be watching it on Sci-Fi anymore.

  19. @6: “No, that’s just a fairy tale that trademark lawyers tell their clients to justify their billings”

    As a trademark attorney, I kind of take exception to this statement.

    Companies *do* need to be incredibly proactive in defending their trademarks, or there is a real danger of losing them. Not just from genericness (which does occur every so often, e.g., Aspirin, or Escalator), but also because of estoppel or implied consent issues which might prevent you from stopping future infringing uses.

    I have been in disputes where the other side has pointed to third party uses of similar marks to show that they should be entitled to coexist as well. If you allow a bunch of people to use your mark (or confusingly similar marks), it can really come back to bite you when you do try and defend against a particularly bad case later. Any third party use (aside from fair use) that you haven’t addressed can be used against you by the other side.

    Which isn’t to say that the BBC is right in this case–I don’t think they are. But it’s certainly not a myth that you need to enforce your trademark or risk losing it, or the ability to enforce it (which amounts to basically the same thing).

  20. Hmmm. If they come round my house, they will find several hundred Doctor Who-inspired drawings, by my 7 year old son. If I scan them and put them up on Flickr, will I get a snotty BBC threat letter too? Lame.

  21. Apropos last night’s episode: I must be the last person on earth who thinks there will ever be an explanation on the show for the Doctor’s granddaughter. Disappointment, every time. Sigh.

  22. This story just got posted to the BBC’s Backstage mailing list, along with the link to this post (on BB).

    Hopefully someone on the inside will notice the bad press, and make less of an effort to make fans into criminals.

Comments are closed.