‘I want to start my own business using popular characters such as Elmo to perform at parties. I don’t want to break the law with copyright issues. I noticed one business owner didn’t use any character names and renamed Elmo “red furry monster”. She then had a disclaimer at the end that stated that all characters may coincidentally look like popular characters and was not intentional. Is that legal? Do I need a lawyer to help write up such disclaimers? Thank you very much for your time! Any more tips are appreciated.’
You don’t need a lawyer to help you write up disclaimers so much as you need a lawyer to help you understand exactly where the lines are in terms of trademark infringement. Even if you don’t intend for the public, or your customers, to confuse your offerings with Sesame Street or other characters, if they do cause such confusion, you may be guilty of trademark infringement. And, as you clearly state that you want to use “popular characters such as Elmo”, in your case it sounds as if you will be counting (and banking) on that similarity, i.e. intentionally infringing on the trademark. You don’t even need to be making money off the infringement to be found guilty of it, but if you are, it only helps to make their case against you all the easier.