Legal Question in Intellectual Property in Virginia

Product image copyright

Can I market and sell a t-shirt with my original rendering of a Boeing 747 or a Ford Mustang printed on the front without permission from Boeing or Ford? Does it make a difference if the words ''Boeing'' and ''747'' (or ''Ford'' and ''Mustang'') appear alone or together in conjunction with the rendering?

Asked on 10/08/01, 3:43 pm

2 Answers from Attorneys

Brad Goldizen Goldizen & Associates

Re: Product image copyright

Your t-shirt may be subject to copyright protection. As you probably know copyright protects "original works of authorship."

However, this is not the question at hand. Your inquiry is a trademark question. Regarding the use of the "Ford", "Boeing", "747" and "Mustang" marks, these marks are famous trademarks. If you market you shirt having any of these trademarks, you run the risk of being hauled into a federal court and being sued for at least dilution and maybe trademark infringement.

Infringement of a trademark occurs when a person or entity, who without consent of the trademark owner, uses in commerce any reproduction, coutnerfeit, copy or colorable imitation of a registered mark in connection with the sale, offering for sale, distribution, or advertising of products on or in connection with the sale, offering for sale, distribution, or advertising of any prodcuts or in connection with which such use is likely to cause confusion, or to cause mistake, or to deceive.

Thus, you should secure permission for use of these marks from the trademark owners before marketing you shirt.

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Answered on 11/27/01, 9:21 am
Daniel Press Chung & Press, P.C.

Re: Product image copyright

No, not without permission of the trademark owners. These are famous trademarks, and even if your product is a shirt and theirs is a car or plane, your use trades on their mark and dilutes it. Often companies give permission when what you do is free advertising, but you have to obtain that permission before proceeding.

Note that this is a trademark issue, not one of copyright.

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Answered on 11/21/01, 4:23 pm

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