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Hi all,

Does anybody know about taking a corporate brand (like Jim Beam) and redesigning an image to make it appear as the same logo, but have your words or design added to it (obviously taking out Jim Beam and it's text)? What's the legal ramifications. I see it all the time. Especially when "Garbage Pail Kids" were big! I've seen it with Corona, Snickers, and many more. Thanks.
 

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This is a very popular topic on the forums. Everyone has an opinion on this, however, none of them matter. You need to speak with a lawyer who specializes in copyright/trademark laws. Two-hundred people on this forum could post and tell you that it's perfectly legal to do but that won't help you WHEN (not if) you get taken to court.
 

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Yeah I have a questionable design in my lineup. I'll probably have to talk to a lawyer as well. The problem is, there isn't really any black and white rules to this kind of thing. Anyone can take you to court over it, even if they know they are wrong they may hope to just have you give up because of legal expenses.
 

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Plus judges can't always be relied upon to make the correct decision, even if it was legal (of course it's not legal/illegal until a judge makes a ruling, so we can't very well call their decision wrong in any event).
 

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Phil, thanks for the short and realistic reply:D This topic comes up regularly on other boards too. Susan

TeeShirtSamurai said:
This is a very popular topic on the forums. Everyone has an opinion on this, however, none of them matter. You need to speak with a lawyer who specializes in copyright/trademark laws. Two-hundred people on this forum could post and tell you that it's perfectly legal to do but that won't help you WHEN (not if) you get taken to court.
 

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The rule of thumb is a logo has to be 20% different for it to be ok. Some companies chase you down even when you get close. Apple springs to mind.

There are so many logos out there, you are going to look like one at some point. I'm in the middle of a Trademark project and the graphic search is extensive and while there are logos similar to the one I'm marking, they are different enough that it wouldn't be a legal issue.

I've seen people walk all over that legal line.
 

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The rule of thumb is a logo has to be 20% different for it to be ok. Some companies chase you down even when you get close. Apple springs to mind.
I don't think that is an actual rule anywhere. It's more of a myth (like the poor man's copyright)
http://drawsketch.about.com/cs/resources/a/copyright_2.htm


I've seen people walk all over that legal line
Remember, just because you see other people do it, doesn't make it legal or doesn't mean they won't get caught or sued. They may also have asked permission from the original author.

Best advice: Talk to a lawyer.
 

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Studio490 said:
There are so many logos out there, you are going to look like one at some point. I'm in the middle of a Trademark project and the graphic search is extensive and while there are logos similar to the one I'm marking, they are different enough that it wouldn't be a legal issue.
The original poster wasn't talking about one business logo resembling another (which just happens sometimes), but deliberately altering someone's logo (i.e. trademark infringement).

You want the logo to be somewhat mistaken for the original in this case, which by definition is trademark infringement.

The question could simply be rephrased "What loopholes can I use to get away with trademark infringement?"

(and I wish there was a good answer to that because personally I don't mind corporate parodies - but let's not call a spade a flat metal object that could potentially be used for digging)
 

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Rodney said:
I don't think that is an actual rule anywhere. It's more of a myth (like the poor man's copyright)
http://drawsketch.about.com/cs/resources/a/copyright_2.htm

Remember, just because you see other people do it, doesn't make it legal or doesn't mean they won't get caught or sued. They may also have asked permission from the original author.

Best advice: Talk to a lawyer.
Sure, talk to a lawyer. I'm sure it won't cost to much money to drag one into a design issue everytime you want to clairify something.

11 years at large design firm in New Orleans and never once did we have to involve a lawyer. Never got sued either.

As I stated in my post, if you change it enough (20% or so) you should be different enough not to be approach with legal action.

I see in this case, you want to be assoicated with a logo and are looking for a "how close can I get to the fire before I get burned" answer.

If you're that concerned, www.legalzoom.com offers a trademark search for about 400.00. You describe your art, you submit your art and they compare you art to what's out there. You get this big phone book type thing in the mail with all the similar logos.

The supermarket is loaded with this kinds of stuff. The butter next to Country Crock is similar for a reason. So, you don't notice that you bought the wrong butter until you get home.
 

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Studio490 said:
Sure, talk to a lawyer. I'm sure it won't cost to much money to drag one into a design issue everytime you want to clairify something.

11 years at large design firm in New Orleans and never once did we have to involve a lawyer. Never got sued either.
The point isn't that "talk to a lawyer" is particularly good advice (it's not), the point is that it's all we can really offer if someone isn't prepared to make their own decisions.

In those 11 years at a large design firm, how many times did you come to an internet forum and rely on someone else to take responsibility for your legal decisions?

"Change it enough" is a phrase that runs chills down our spines.
 

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ShckByte said:
Hi all, Does anybody know about taking a corporate brand (like Jim Beam) and redesigning an image to make it appear as the same logo, but have your words or design added to it (obviously taking out Jim Beam and it's text)? What's the legal ramifications. I see it all the time. Especially when "Garbage Pail Kids" were big! I've seen it with Corona, Snickers, and many more. Thanks.
To directly answer your questions, it depends on the usage. Generally, if it somewhat resembles the original logo, it's trademark infringement. There are three exemptions, however, that the law provides under "fair use": (1) nominative, (2) comparitive advertising and (3) parody.

As with your examples, those fall under the category of parody. You don't state whether or not yours intends to be a parody or not so we can't comment on whether or not yours fits the exemption.

But take in mind that although you might legally be in the right parodying a certain brand/company, be prepared to be bullied by the company if you ever catch their attention. They will send you cease and desist letters which are annoying, and can be ignored. But they can waste your time and money by taking you to court. You might win, but will be out your time and lawyer fees which can be quite substantial which might not make it worth it.
 

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4Bviper said:
To directly answer your questions, it depends on the usage. Generally, if it somewhat resembles the original logo, it's trademark infringement. There are three exemptions, however, that the law provides under "fair use": (1) nominative, (2) comparitive advertising and (3) parody.
I thought that was the legal mumbo jumbo for copyright infringement and there were a whole set of questions to be answered (that a judge will base his/her rulling on) for trademark infringement...
 

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I do think there's often confusion between trademark and copyright law when this comes up.

I had an epiphany, and it came in the form of song (ironically, a parody).

[sung to the tune of Spam by Monty Python]

Lovely Laaawyer! Wonderful Laaawyer!
Lovely Laaawyer! Wonderful Laaawyer.

La-a-a-a-a-a-a-wyer.
La-a-a-a-a-a-a-wyer.
La-a-a-a-a-a-a-wyer.
La-a-a-a-a-a-a-wyer.

Lovely Laaawyer! (Lovely Lawyer!)
Lovely Laaawyer! (Lovely Lawyer!)
Lovely Laaawyer!

Laaawyer, Laaawyer, Laaawyer, Laaaaaaawyer!
 

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Solmu said:
The point isn't that "talk to a lawyer" is particularly good advice (it's not), the point is that it's all we can really offer if someone isn't prepared to make their own decisions.

In those 11 years at a large design firm, how many times did you come to an internet forum and rely on someone else to take responsibility for your legal decisions?

"Change it enough" is a phrase that runs chills down our spines.
If someone isn't perpared to make their own decisions, they research the topic. Consult with other professionals. Read about it. Have a couple of meeting to discuss the issues. And then (only then) if the issue cannot be addressed without a concern of being sued over a logo or whatever, then you can seek out the next level. I just gave you the option of legalzoom. While it is a lawyer based site, you really only buy a search to ease those troubled nerves.

In those 11 years, I did in fact use site like this one to discuss topics I was involved in. I think that's the point of Forums. Unless, you get a kick back everytime you type the word "lawyer".

If "Change it enough" gives your chills, I wonder what happends when I say, just change the color.

I'd love to be a lawyer and know you for a client.

Back to the poster with the question, you may want to visit a legal site and look into their FAQ section. Or email them. At 250.00 per hour only a few of us can afford their services for every concern.
 

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Studio490 said:
If someone isn't perpared to make their own decisions, they research the topic. Consult with other professionals. Read about it. Have a couple of meeting to discuss the issues. And then (only then) if the issue cannot be addressed without a concern of being sued over a logo or whatever, then you can seek out the next level.
I completely agree.

I guess what we disagree with is what constitutes research. A forum certainly can be... but if I want legal research, I would go to a legal forum.

Alternatively I might search for free legal advice on the appropriate organisations' websites, or talk to my local small business authority, or talk to my local free legal service (not all lawyers cost money, depending on what services you have access to), or etc.

Studio490 said:
If "Change it enough" gives your chills, I wonder what happends when I say, just change the color.
Egads! I think my heart is going to burst over here. Are you trying to kill me man?!

Studio490 said:
I'd love to be a lawyer and know you for a client.
As I've said before there's a difference between what I'd do myself over legal matters, and what I'd recommend others do.

The risks I choose to take are my business, but it would be inappropriate for me to recommend a course of action that could potentially be illegal.
 

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My current company is part of Administaff which provides all kinds of services as Mega company size discounts. One of them being Free Legal advise (1 hour per whatever). You may look to see if your day job has something like this. You may even contact your Chamber of commerce to see if they can answer or recommend someone.

I know when I've contacted legalzooms intellectual property department about the pending trademark, they consulted me about many questions.

Hey Solmu, let's just make it bigger or rotate it.

;)

I love a happy ending.
 

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Studio490 said:
Hey Solmu, let's just make it bigger or rotate it.

;)

I love a happy ending.
These statements will indeed be my ending ;)

When I/we describe going to a lawyer as not very useful, we possibly do underestimate how many free legal services there are out there.

Finding a list of them might be a useful project if anyone could be bothered (I know I can't... I already know one I can use so a list of one is big enough for me ;))
 
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