T-Shirt Forums banner
1 - 20 of 34 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
1 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I have no idea if this is the right place for a question like this but here goes nothing.

I have this idea (which I proud of) or a sort of funny shirt that uses the same font and color scheme as a trademarked company logo, but it says something slightly different. The original logo is just the name of the company, and my design would contain similar letters but with a space and a few letters different so it says something else in a different language. At first glance it would probably be assumed to be the company's logo, but if you actually read it and understand the language, it is obviously not the company logo.

How different does the design have to be to avoid legal problems?
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
371 Posts
Unfortunately no matter what anyone says about parody or % difference or anything else there is no black & white answer. You either engage a lawyer, approach the company for permission, take your chances or play it safe & let it go. Because if you're caught & found guilty the consequences far outweigh your profit no matter how many you sell.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
4,360 Posts
Parody is a possible defense in court, it is not a license.

Have you checked the logo/brand in the TESS database? The TM may also include the colors used and the specifics of the letters/type. TMs exist to allow companies to protect their brand identity from confusion with other brands as well as from besmirching. Whether you would win in court or not is beside the point, as it would involve expenditure of your time and money. For your purposes the real question is how small and insignificant do you have to be to avoid rising to the notice of their lawyers. YMMV depending on the brand, many have staff or hired firms that search online for IP infringement, and some selling platforms automatically reject infringing uploads. More and more AI enforcement of TM out there ... to the point that a lot of non-infringing stuff gets nicked too.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
4,038 Posts
have this idea (which I proud of) or a sort of funny shirt that uses the same font and color scheme as a trademarked company logo, but it says something slightly different. The original logo is just the name of the company, and my design would contain similar letters but with a space and a few letters different so it says something else in a different language. At first glance it would probably be assumed to be the company's logo, but if you actually read it and understand the language, it is obviously not the company logo.
Most likely a parody, and by definition parody is an imitation with a comic effect.
Here is an example.
Outerwear Shoulder Muscle White Product

There is a catch however.
Some people wrongly believe that parody entitles them to use any copyrighted material they can find online.
This is wrong, and in this case the photo of the butts is copyrighted, so you will need permission to use it.

Here is another example with another catch:
Outerwear Product Sleeve Grey Sportswear

This parody is perfectly legal BUT the parody itself is now copyrighted, in the same way as the movie "Meet the Spartans", parody of the movie "300" is also copyrighted.
Publication Poster Font Art Advertising
Publication Font Hat Poster Art

You cannot just copy reproduce or imitate the parody already produced by somebody else.
You need to come up with your own unique ideas.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
441 Posts
I'm not a lawyer, but as I understand it, there also has to be a "comic effect" to be a parody. While funny may be up to interpretation, if your are just reworking a logo into your own words, while it may seem like a clever twist to you, that doesn't necessarily make it a parody. Turning Coca-Cola into cocaine is comic, turning it into Cocas-Store is not.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
441 Posts
Cocas-Store would probably be OK even if not parody... For the same reason Green-Cola is OK.
View attachment 273214
This is a Real product by the way and it's not owned by Coca Cola.
It tastes good as well.
Maybe Coke is looking the other way, but it looks like a pretty risky gambit to me, the line to cross is very close there, IMHO.

Idiot Inside is a better example of parody.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
9,770 Posts
I have no idea if this is the right place for a question like this but here goes nothing.

I have this idea (which I proud of) or a sort of funny shirt that uses the same font and color scheme as a trademarked company logo, but it says something slightly different. The original logo is just the name of the company, and my design would contain similar letters but with a space and a few letters different so it says something else in a different language. At first glance it would probably be assumed to be the company's logo, but if you actually read it and understand the language, it is obviously not the company logo.

How different does the design have to be to avoid legal problems?
Consider this: The South Butt - Wikipedia
 
  • Like
Reactions: DrivingZiggy

·
Registered
Joined
·
4,038 Posts
Maybe Coke is looking the other way, but it looks like a pretty risky gambit to me, the line to cross is very close there, IMHO.

Idiot Inside is a better example of parody.
It's not a parody. Green-Cola is a real soft-drink in Europe.
The design is obviously has similarities to Coke but it's different enough to be legal.

Interesting case, but "The South Butt" was parody.
The company offered to pay the parodist for an out of court settlement, and the parodist agreed.
The subsequent court case was about the parodist creating another similar brand "The Butt Face" violating the terms of the settlement.

Disclaimer: I'm not a lawyer and the above are just my opinion.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
4 Posts
You don't have to worry about being sued. The first thing the company will do is send you a cease and desist letter. If you stop . . . no problem. In the 80s I did a gun design with the registered trademark of American Express, "Don't Leave Home Without It". The design was advertised in national publications and quickly drew AE's attention. I stopped. End of problem.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2 Posts
There are definitely rules as to what constitutes legally protected parody, as others have pointed out (i.e. you can't copy someone else's copyrighted parody, etc), but it's a well established precedent that parody is protected, and legal precedent is powerful. Quite a few over-dramatic responses here. The worst your parody would encounter, more than likely, is a threatening cease & desist letter. No one's going to spend/flush the money trying to sue your pants off if what you're doing is legitimate parody.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
16 Posts
Everything you do in business is going to be a risk assessment. @rnlqts offers their experience with the cease and desist letter, and while that may have been their experience, it's not always going to play out that way. A company would be well within their legal rights to just come after you for damages out of the gate. Yes, many companies start with the cease and desist letter and then drop it if you drop it. Other's will go for it and sue you. If you feel confident that you can defend a law suit, and have the money to do it, then maybe you want to take the risk. If you don't, then maybe you shouldn't. In my experience, and in my opinion, FWIW, a company will go after you if they see your design and they think it's too close to their brandmark. They may send a letter and give you a chance to back down or they may sue you. You have to ask yourself if it's worth the risk for a T-Shirt. I'm sure the company you are parodying offers official licensing that you could pay for. You may want to research that, and become licensed to cover yourself. There is also a risk that they deem your idea inappropriate for their brand image, in which case damages could be higher. Think about it this way ... and this is how the company will argue the case and likely win. You have to ask yourself what the value is for you to parody their brandmark? The value is that it's recognizable to potential buyers. You will benefit and get sales because your customers will recognize the brandmark parody and associate it with the goodwill and years of painstaking advertising that the legitimate company invested in to be recognized by the public. By changing a letter, a font, a color, if it's still recognized because of the trademark owners brand, you'll lose. Because in reality, you're stealing their hard work and IP to sell shirts. That sounds harsh, but if you are being honest with yourself, that's what your thinking about doing. If their hard work in building their brand was of no value to you, you wouldn't even be thinking about doing this project. So by your own possible future actions, you're basically admitting that there is value in their brand to make sales. As you can see, when you think about it this way, it's theft. I'm not judging you, I'm simply explaining how a lawyer would approach this to sue you, and likely win. If the roles were reversed and you had a successful and profitable original design and you saw a parody out there making money on a derivative of your idea, would you be happy for them or would you be upset?
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1 Posts
I have no idea if this is the right place for a question like this but here goes nothing.

I have this idea (which I proud of) or a sort of funny shirt that uses the same font and color scheme as a trademarked company logo, but it says something slightly different. The original logo is just the name of the company, and my design would contain similar letters but with a space and a few letters different so it says something else in a different language. At first glance it would probably be assumed to be the company's logo, but if you actually read it and understand the language, it is obviously not the company logo.

How different does the design have to be to avoid legal problems?
I have no idea if this is the right place for a question like this but here goes nothing.

I have this idea (which I proud of) or a sort of funny shirt that uses the same font and color scheme as a trademarked company logo, but it says something slightly different. The original logo is just the name of the company, and my design would contain similar letters but with a space and a few letters different so it says something else in a different language. At first glance it would probably be assumed to be the company's logo, but if you actually read it and understand the language, it is obviously not the company logo.

How different does the design have to be to avoid legal problems?
I made this shirt and Harley Davison was all over me! They sent a Cease and Desist Letter!
Outerwear Sleeve Jersey T-shirt Grey
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
16 Posts
I made this shirt and Harley Davison was all over me! They sent a Cease and Desist Letter! View attachment 273309
273310

Consider yourself lucky. If they had wanted to, they could have taken you to the cleaners. There is no mistaking this level of trademark infringement. Harley, Disney, Coke etc... all of these big boys have automated software that is running image searches 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, looking for this type of thing so that they can sue people. Trademark infringement is now a line item on their income ledgers. They make money by suing people every year, and have "suing people goals" to increase that income every year. It's no joke.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
16 Posts
Most companies will send a C&D letter. They won't bother suing some nobody right off the bat. I think the risk of being sued without a C&D is miniscule.
I'm not looking to get into a posting battle with anyone, but I think that this view is misguided. Just because someone is a "nobody" doesn't mean that they won't get sued. Business insurance and personal guarantees are often tapped to pay off these claims. Of course you are entitled to your view point and your opinion, I'm just offering the counter to someone that may be reading this and be lulled into doing something illegal because they think that they will get a free pass. Maybe they will. Maybe there is a 95% chance that they will get a free pass. But if they don't it would be ugly. Just sayin'. But I respect your viewpoint and it should be heard for those risk takers out there.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2 Posts
I made this shirt and Harley Davison was all over me! They sent a Cease and Desist Letter!
That's a good example of the fuzzy line between parody and not-exactly-parody. Not saying Harley-Davidson would've actually gone as far as court, but it could be argued that there isn't enough of a Harley related joke going on here to qualify as a parody of HD and/or its logo. It's more of a general joke (not related to motorcycles, not making enough of a play on the wording of the original HD logo, etc) which simply uses the form of the logo to sell the shirt. Could go either way in court, though. Depending on the mood of the judge.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
4,038 Posts
The main issue is that people fail to understand what parody is.

Wikipedia has three good examples for the US.
The third example (not a parody) is the one many people fail to understand, but it is actually really simple.
You cannot just grab any copyrighted work you like and stick it in a parody about something entirely different.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
3 Posts
I can only speak from a USA perspective as there are nuanced differences in the law between countries. I think many here are confusing trademark and copyright. While both have seen parody tested in court, case law has shown a clearer path for judgements in trademark (which is this conversation) than copyright. Copyright tends to run a little more grey. If I parody your song is it parody just because it’s set to the same tune? Some judgements say yes, others no. Weird Al always sought artist permission before recording anything to avoid this very issue.

In trademark the fair-use line is firm. If the work does not offer commentary (or in the case of parody mockery) it does not qualify as protected under fair use. So, in the examples we’ve seen above the Intel logo plays off the mark and would be protected while the Harley logo just sets a different, unrelated message in their IP (intellectual property). It would not qualify as parody or commentary and this is unlikely to qualify under fair-use.
Receiving a cease letter and stopping does not protect you from litigation. Often, companies stop there but some don’t. If companies don’t defend their IP they can set a precedent that can cause them to loose it. A good example is SPAM. The Hormel company failed to protect their mark (initially) against being associated with junk Mail. By the time they took action a judge ruled they had failed to defend their mark to this point and they lost.
Most of these cases never make it to court and are well worth threatening the little guys because they almost never have the resources (money) to take the mater to court. Most little guys settle. They have to. Even if they’d win.

the green cola one is more interesting… the font green is written in is a generic, publicly available font with their own flourish. Coke would have a hard time proving it was stolen - and in doing so they would draw more attention to the competitor while risking weakening their own ability to protect their mark if they lost… not worth the risk, even as Green is exploding internationally. ESP. Since coke has been in the midst of other legal battles around the color green and stands to loose more than they gain if they sue Green Cola and loose… it’s all kinda nuts.

there’s a nice article on parody in trademark here- Parody Under the Trademark Laws | New York Law Journal

stay safe friends!
not an attorney, just someone years obsessed with this subject
.
 
1 - 20 of 34 Posts
This is an older thread, you may not receive a response, and could be reviving an old thread. Please consider creating a new thread.
Top