Legal Question in Intellectual Property in District of Columbia

If I were to take a trademarked image, such as the Olympic Rings, and change the shape so the rings were triangles instead of circles, would that be breaking trademark law?

Asked on 7/18/12, 12:48 pm

1 Answer from Attorneys

Chaz Rainey Rainey Devine

As with most legal questions, the answer is unfortunately: "it depends."

The real test here is whether there is a likelihood of confusion. If your illustration is confusingly similar to the Olympics logo, such that one viewing your illustration might reasonably think that your product is affiliated with the Olympics, then you are potentially in trouble for infringement.

There is no clear cut boundary here. It isn't as if there is some specific way of altering the logo to ensure that your new mark is non-infringing. The determination of likelihood of confusion is based on a more nuanced factor test that the court applies. Basically, there is a large gray area here.

Another factor to consider is whether your mark would qualify as a parody or satire of the Olympics trademark. The courts haven't quite developed a unifying form of analysis for examining parodic uses of trademarks, but it is clear that, if you can plainly show a parodic or satirical purpose underlying your use of the mark, that this will help you survive a claim of infringement.

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Answered on 7/18/12, 1:57 pm

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