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I an thinking of making t-shirts that use the last names of college football coaches.

It will say 'In LastName We Trust".

If I were using the full name, I could see a clear likeness infringement, however I cannot find much info on using just a last name.

I have heard of people defending this by saying it could be anyone's last name, but what if I am trying to sell these near the stadium during a game? If I do that, it is pretty obvious who I am referencing.

I would like to contact a lawyer on this, but is it normal to just call up a trademark lawyer office and just ask them a question? Would I need to setup a consultation (seems like it could be expensive). If anyone has experience with discussing trademarks issues with a lawyer, I would like to hear about it.

Thanks very much!

-Mike
 

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First, understand that there is NO irod-clad copyright/trademark protection. Any person or company can bring suit against any person or company for violations, and this costs money to defend, even though you may be right.
I have been in this biz for 23 years, and have followed several copyright infringement cases thru court proceedings, and have found that there seems to be a general trend with judges in awarding judgments: If a design, intentionally or unintentionally, causes confusion of an average consumer to believe that this design is part of, or connected to, or reminds the potential customer of a company or individual, then it probably (in most cases) would be considered to be copyright infringement or trademark violation.
Lets take your situation: You put on a t/shirt In "Jones" We Trust. You sell those shirts near a stadium where "Jones" is coaching a game, so the average customer would believe that you are promoting Jones (the coach), (and this would be without his/her permission,) hence the confusion on the customer's part. They are purchasing the shirt because they like/love their coach, and the fact that you're selling near the stadium makes the design more appealing, especially as an impluse purchase to wear into the game.
Think about it...if you were the coach, and someone was using your last name in a venue to make money for themselves without your permission, would you not be, at least, offended??? Like you stated, "I have heard of people defending this by saying it could be anyone's last name"....which means they were brought to court, and have to pay to defend themselves, probably costing them much more than any profit they could have made selling shirts, even though the court may have ruled in their favor. So, it is really worth the risk???
 

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First, understand that there is NO irod-clad copyright/trademark protection. Any person or company can bring suit against any person or company for violations, and this costs money to defend, even though you may be right.
I have been in this biz for 23 years, and have followed several copyright infringement cases thru court proceedings, and have found that there seems to be a general trend with judges in awarding judgments: If a design, intentionally or unintentionally, causes confusion of an average consumer to believe that this design is part of, or connected to, or reminds the potential customer of a company or individual, then it probably (in most cases) would be considered to be copyright infringement or trademark violation.
Lets take your situation: You put on a t/shirt In "Jones" We Trust. You sell those shirts near a stadium where "Jones" is coaching a game, so the average customer would believe that you are promoting Jones (the coach), (and this would be without his/her permission,) hence the confusion on the customer's part. They are purchasing the shirt because they like/love their coach, and the fact that you're selling near the stadium makes the design more appealing, especially as an impluse purchase to wear into the game.
Think about it...if you were the coach, and someone was using your last name in a venue to make money for themselves without your permission, would you not be, at least, offended??? Like you stated, "I have heard of people defending this by saying it could be anyone's last name"....which means they were brought to court, and have to pay to defend themselves, probably costing them much more than any profit they could have made selling shirts, even though the court may have ruled in their favor. So, it is really worth the risk???
Brians answer is right on.. also if you happen to use the team colors that would add to the lawsuit. In fact may make it very plain that you are addressing the couch's name.
 

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Actually the supreme court recent ruled (Walmart v.s. Samaraa) that color is not an exclusive factor in trade dress.. so according to this ruling color is not an indicator for the source of goods on apparel items.
 

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Actually the supreme court recent ruled (Walmart v.s. Samaraa) that color is not an exclusive factor in trade dress.. so according to this ruling color is not an indicator for the source of goods on apparel items.
Unfortunately, there are contrasting precedents, like the ruling here which said that colors can be protected under trademark laws: Law.com - Colorful T-Shirt Seller Loses Trademark Fight

Which is one reason we generally stay away from legal topics since even well researched advice could end up costing someone money if people decide to follow it because they read it here.
 

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Unfortunately, there are contrasting precedents, like the ruling here which said that colors can be protected under trademark laws: Law.com - Colorful T-Shirt Seller Loses Trademark Fight

Which is one reason we generally stay away from legal topics since even well researched advice could end up costing someone money if people decide to follow it because they read it here.
Couldn't agree more..legal advice is for Lawyers every situation is different and even judgements as pointed out above can be self conflicting..

When in doubt call an attorney!
 

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i don't think it'd be a problem, i did some research some time ago, as long as you are not using a pic of the person you are talking bout you cant get sued.
 

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Funnie you should ask this question the day I recived a flyer from inkpixi.com with my last name on it. Am thinking someone beat you to the punch. You might wanta look at there site.
 
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