The copyrights for Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories expired in 1980 in Canada and in 2000 in the United Kingdom. In the United States, the only Sherlock Holmes works still protected by copyrights are portions of The Case Book. Two of the stories, published in 1921 through 1922, are already in the public domain; the rest will enter the public domain in various years leading up to 2023. A legal challenge that would have invalidated a 1998 extension to the length of copyright—putting Sherlock Holmes into the public domain immediately—was thrown out by the Supreme Court January 15, 2003.
The American copyrights are owned by Conan Doyle Estate Ltd. The Estate has a web page setting out its views about other claimants to those rights. For background, see a note by Peter Blau, January 2011.
As 2013 came to an end, the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois handed down a ruling about copyright protection, not for the stories themselves, but for the characters of Holmes and Watson. The defendant in the case was the Conan Doyle Estate Ltd. The plaintiff was well-known Sherlockian editor, and Los Angeles entertainment lawyer, Leslie S. Klinger. In the case of Klinger vs. Conan Doyle Estate Ltd., the court ruled that the Holmes and Watson characters as described in the "story elements" that stem from most of the stories—those published before 1923—are in the public domain.
The original title, "Reminiscences of Mr. Sherlock Holmes", was to be for occasional tales to "reflect particular concerns of Conan Doyle beyond exciting whodunit plots ... exploring changes in the modern world". The first Reminiscence about Wisteria Lodge, "a dictator who has ruined a small country", fictionalizes his later "blistering indictment of the Belgian treatment of the people of the Congo".
The Case-Book contains three stories not narrated by Dr. Watson, as most Sherlock Holmes stories are. "The Adventure of the Mazarin Stone" is narrated in the third person, since it was adapted from a stage play in which Watson hardly appeared. "The Adventure of the Blanched Soldier" and "The Adventure of the Lion's Mane" are both narrated by Holmes himself, the latter being set after his retirement.
Although some of the stories are comparable with Doyle's earlier work, this collection is often considered a lesser entry in the Sherlock Holmes canon. David Stuart Davies has commented that "The Adventure of the Creeping Man" "veers towards risible science fiction"; in the 1974 novel The Seven-Per-Cent Solution, author Nicholas Meyer's Watson claims that this entry, as well as three others from the Case-Book ("The Mazarin Stone", "The Three Gables" and "The Lion's Mane"), are forged "drivel". Kyle Freeman also suggests that "The Mazarin Stone" and "The Three Gables" may not be Conan Doyle's work, stating that "[a]lmost nothing about either of "The Mazarin Stone" or "The Three Gables" has the true ring of Conan Doyle's style about them."