Conan to part with Triumph the Insult Comic Dog? Say it ain’t so!

Does it bring you to tears to imagine Conan O’Brien’s comedy skits without characters like Triumph the Insult Comic Dog and the Pimbot 5000? Does the pain strike you like a 1,000 bricks when flirting with the thought that you could never see Conan perform sketches about the Year 3000? Unfortunately for Conan, many of his memorable characters and sketches are now legal property of NBC.

cc licensed flickr photo shared by BobbyProm

[More after the jump]

Conan O’Brien and NBC have reached an agreement regarding Conan’s exit from the “Tonight Show,” and as a result, will have to bid farewell to the intellectual property rights for the characters and sketches he created while working for NBC. In fact, it is standard practice for a network to keep ideas developed on shows that they own.

Los Angeles-based entertainer lawyer Larry Zerner wrote in an e-mail to the Wall Street Journal Law Blog that “although he has not seen the contracts for Conan and his writers, such agreements typically include a ‘work for hire’ provision.” This type of provision dictates that NBC would be considered the sole author and creator for anything created for the show (e.g. Triumph the Comic Insult Dog and In the 3000 sketch).

Zerner also explains that there is precedent for Conan’s intellectual property situation. In 1993 when David Letterman left NBC for CBS, Letterman was barred from using characters like Larry “Bud” Melman from his show. Unwilling to leave his skits behind, Letterman got around the legal issue by having the actor who portrayed Melman play essentially the same character with his real name, Calvert DeForest.

As unfortunate as this might be for long time fans of Conan’s comedy, there is a silver-lining as Conan recently joked:

“Isn’t it great to live in a country where a cigar-smoking dog puppet . . . is considered intellectual property?”

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