I got a tattoo this past summer.
As someone who hates needles and didn’t even have her ears pierced until her senior year of college, getting a tattoo was a big deal. But River City is chock full of phenomenal tattoo artists, and is repeatedly touted as one of the most tatted-up cities in the nation. So after months of consideration, I finally decided to memorialize a childhood nickname in a tiny, minimalist patch of ink.
So I did what anyone else would do: I turned to Pinterest.
Three search terms led to a flood of designs. Pages of artistry scrolled by as I searched for the perfect image. Photographs of gorgeous tattoo art provided a rabbit hole that ate up most of my afternoon.
My lawyer brain, however, started thinking. Who owns the intellectual property rights in tattoos?
Many people think that someone who owns a trademark in a word has complete ownership of that word for all purposes. This is not so.
Trademark Rights are Limited
A trademark owner can stop other businesses that sell the same product or service from using a confusingly similar trademark in a way that is likely to cause customer confusion about the source of the goods or services. That’s it. That’s all the power a trademark owner has. If there is no confusion, then there is no infringement.
So for example, companies making different products can use identical trademarks, like GERBER for baby food and GERBER for knives. No one is likely to confuse baby food for knives, or vice versa, and so there is no infringement.
Continue reading “You Can Own a Trademark, But You Can’t Own a Word” »
Many start ups begin with limited finances, forcing them to consider what they can and cannot afford at any given stage in development. While most small businesses and start ups question whether they can afford to pursue trademark registration as part of their brand development, what they cannot afford is to wind up on the wrong side of litigation for failing to fully explore on whose turf they may inadvertently be treading. It is easy for businesses of all sizes, whether starting up, re-branding, or expanding their growth into other areas of development, to unwittingly adopt a brand already in use by another business. Learning what, or who, is in a name is a step in the start up process that most cannot afford to skip.
Continue reading “Look Before You Launch – Developing and Protecting Your Brand” »
We are often asked whether it is lawful to use a particular image from the Internet on a website or social media page. This question can take many different forms. Some believe that images placed on the Internet are in the “public domain,” meaning that these people believe images on the Internet are freely available to all and not subject to copyright protection. Others acknowledge that copyright protection may exist for some images on the Internet, but believe that a lack of a copyright notice or a lack of clear evidence of the identity of the author of the image extinguishes any copyright that may have once existed. These beliefs are not correct, and the reason why is clear upon a further examination of copyright law in the United States.
Continue reading “Can I Use Images I Find on the Internet on My Website?” »