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Written by : Matt Rappleyea
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so you come up with an awesome phrase that would be perfect for a mug a t-shirt a card or hat can you run down to the trademark office and file a trademark for that phrase that's exactly what we're going to cover in this week's episode of a skit hi I'm Tiffany Staley founder of the artist JD a place designed to add ease to the legalese of running your creative business this week's question comes to us from Jennifer in Florida she asks can a trademark a t-shirt design so we know that short phrases don't get copyright protection but we hear about all the time in the news people running to the trademark office and filing trademarks for phrases that appear on hats or t-shirts so can you do that and is it a smart thing to do before we get into that let's remember why trademarks exist trademarks exist for consumer confusion so that consumers know when they see a specific phrase that they know who's providing them that product or service so when I go to Old Navy I know that Old Navy is selling me the clothes because there's the big signage in front of the store the receipt says Old Navy the staff is walking around with Old Navy tags on their shirts that shown in tags on the clothing say Old Navy and the Hang tags say Old Navy yes there are Old Navy shirts and other pieces of clothing that say Old Navy on the front of them but just because it says Old Navy doesn't necessarily mean that I know that Old Navy is selling me that clothing now Old Navy's probably a bad example when it comes to something on the front of the shirt because it is a very well-known brand but if Old Navy and anthropology were both selling shirts that say Love Wins on the front I wouldn't assume that Love Wins is the company that's selling me the clothing I would look inside the shirt and look at the sewn in tag to figure out who the maker of the shirt was so the same exact thing applies here so if you come up with a great phrase yes you can run down to the trademark office and file a trademark application for it there's nothing that's gonna prevent you from doing that the USPTO will gladly take your money the problem is gonna arise as you go through the process of getting the trademark filing the application doesn't mean you have the trademark you still have to go through the review process and there are two parts of the review process that you might get hung up the first part is if you've already got the t-shirts and as part of your application you submit a photograph of the front of the t-shirt to say USPTO this is how I'm using the t-shirt to sell my product or service the USPTO is going to issue what's called an office action to say we don't necessarily agree with that and because that's because of the exact reason we talked about before if I see a Love Wins shirt I'm not gonna think that Love Wins is selling me the shirt I'm gonna look inside and look at that tag that Sonnen tag or that printed on tag to figure out who is making this shirt so the USPTO is going to issue an office action and say we need to see something else that proves either you know show us the sewn in tag show us the Hang tag show us your ecommerce store with this phrase as the company that's selling t-shirts show us some other proof that was created by the date that you've submitted the application in order to get your trademark so that's the first place you may run into problems the second place you may run into problems is if you file your application and you say I'm not using it yet if you file it on what's called an intent to use basis you'll make it further through the application process and once you at the end of the application process in order for your trademark to become official again you're gonna have to submit that proof and once again when you submit a photograph of the front of your t-shirt the USPTO is going to say nope sorry that doesn't cut us show us some other proof that was available on the date you said it's now available that proves that you're using it in a way that consumers are going to identify you as the seller of the t-shirt so the short version putting something on the front of a t-shirt yep you'll be able to file that application but you're not going to be able to get the registered trademark just by putting a phrase on the front of t-shirts mugs cards hats and the like instead you'll have to take it another level and make sure that your ecommerce store that the Hang tags that the Sonnen tags that the printed on tags all identify that same phrase as the person who's providing those shirts to consumers ask if we'll be back after the Thanksgiving holidays and we'll be talking about how you're going to use all of that feedback and testimonials that's amazing that you're getting from your clients and customers over this holiday season next year to sell more products got a question you want me to cover in an upcoming episode leave it in the comments below before you go make sure you check out that video above if you've got a phrase that you decide you want to use in this way it's going to talk about where you're gonna have to search to make sure another business isn't already using that phrase and if you haven't hit that subscribe button subscribe so that you can get notified each time a new episode drops thanks so much for tuning in and I'll see you soon
Thanks for your comment Shaunta Wiedemann, have a nice day.
- Matt Rappleyea, Staff Member
hi guys what is up its ed here from me business boss and today I'm coming to you with the second video in the series that we've decided to foremost by Andersen and today we're gonna be talking about something really really fun drumroll please that's right how to avoid trademark and copyright infringement on merch by Amazon now this is something that affects everybody trademarks and copyrights and getting it right so let's jump into it now guys and see what we can learn so guys as I mentioned in the intro today I'm gonna be talking to you about how to avoid t-shirt design and copyright infringement so we're going to be learning today so who do I believe that this video is for may be beginner and intermediate p OD users with copyright and trademark questions what will we be covering so we'll be covering how copyright and trademark laws affect print-on-demand people unsure of copyright and Trademark exceptions tools we use when checking trademarks useful links are checking copyright and trademarks and possible ramifications for breaking the law if you don't follow the rules so to give you a brief introduction of how intellectual property laws affect print-on-demand so intellectual property law is there to protect the rights of the owner this includes copyright trademark and publicity rights these same rules applied for print-on-demand in biting terms if you are thinking of creating and PID product and the design is of a celebrity a sports team a movie a band or a song stay away from it with regards to merge bands and they take a very strict stance when it comes to in sexual property law so your best to stay the right side of it there are many stories of accounts being shut down for exploring these rules if you do decide to copy someone's work make sure you have permission Amazon will want to check it make submitting your own fresh designs very very important you are ultimately responsible for ensuring you hold the rights to using the designs you submit do not copycat copycat designs are exact replicas of a design already on offer on the marketplace again this is a big no-no so are you unsure of intellectual property right exceptions I know definitely we have been in the past and we still are now but we're always willing to learn so one of these is personal use so if you want to design a shirt that only you and nobody else will use and where and you won't be profiting from it that's fine but why would you want to do that when we're trying to build a pou Empire where the original copyright owner has passed away again you'll need to check this if the originals are created before copyright law existed so for example famous quotes or sayings by people like Shakespeare and other famous writers and poets political figures are technically classes being in the public domain a quick search for Trump on Amazon all merchants formal will show you this areas definitely fair game but also lightly saturated fair use so I've written here this is a gray area and it definitely is it's one that I would say well away from there are plenty of niches within p OD merged by amazon that can be used ensure fair uses use is a use permitted by copyright statute that might otherwise be infringing so non-profit educational or personal use tips the balance in the favor of fair use but again why risk it when there's so many other things you could potentially look at so what the tools that I use when I'm when I'm checking for trademarks so after I've done the product research the next stage is the keyword research and checking for trademarks merchants former does offer a trademark checker button when product researching this takes you free to the trademart website which will bring up any possible trademarks for the product you have you've searched for trademark is also a great website for standalone checking which I use all the time here's a brief glimpse of the trademark is so very simple you want to find trademarks for cats you type in cats quick search and the tool brings back all of these answers with pages and pages of potential trademarks that you'd obviously need to check for you go ahead and do anything motion form also offers an awesome trademark alert tool which you simply key or phrase or keyword into and it will automatically alert you if something becomes trademark this tool definitely saves days of checking so here's the trademarks alert to one or Mershon former simply keying your word cats and save this as simple as that for copyright checking which we don't really need to do so much of a zoo china ensure everything is fresh and original we use the US Copyright Office website as a farm tech before we say may our listings we will hit the merchant forum where am i trade my check button this is a plugin to ensure we haven't missed anything there isn't an exact science behind what will get you banned from work by Mizzou but do you really want to risk finding out here's an example of that merchants former trademark check so for example we were chucking some well no brands here that we know for a fact of course would be trademarked a quick simple click of the button and the results are flashed up and read click the results and all the information on these on these companies and their potential trademarks are shown you click on one of these takes us directly to the USPTO website and it shows us exactly what this brand has been trademarked for so as we can see here full line the sports clothing of course everyone's gonna stay away from Nike but I hit this button every time I submit a listing I might have may have done my checks but if I've missed something it's definitely worth just having a final check just to ensure that I'm not gonna get any rejections when submitting my work too much by Amazon so what the possible ramifications for breaking intellectual property law so what could happen if you break the law if you break the law knowingly or unknowingly there can be repercussions is likely if you are a small PID distributor you probably won't get sued but you will receive a cease and desist letter advising stop selling product and they may request proof of earnings to see how much you profited from your listings merge by Amazon is currently available in the US you came Germany but it is likely to expand across more countries over time trademark and copyright law differs from country to country so ensure you understand the laws of the country you are sending in before uploading anything you've probably also noticed on the bottom of each slide there's a disclaimer so these comments are mine they do not constitute legal advice if you're unsure of anything that I've said please contact a copyright or trademark attorney or lawyer the trademarks we use trademark ear comm for copyright copyright gov and we also use merchant format full of their trademark tools and trademark checkers if you use a boss 20 you'll get 20% of your subscription you'll find the link below we never promote anything that we don't use ourselves the tools will merchants form especially for trademark checking a fantastic and they'll definitely help you along the way thanks for watching guys pl
Thanks Toi your participation is very much appreciated
- Matt Rappleyea
About the author
I've studied nanoengineering at Goshen College in Goshen and I am an expert in landscape architecture (landscape planning). I usually feel lazy. My previous job was social and human service assistants I held this position for 12 years, I love talking about inline skating and skateboarding. Huge fan of Billy Ocean I practice sky surfing and collect books and periodicals.
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