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Mik Ler avatar image
Mik Ler asked

Copyright Question

I understand that one must not copy original graphic designs. And must avoid copyrighted names I am however unclear what the situation is with regards to text. If one creates new graphics or a different text layout, can one use fairly well-known, 'what I would call generic' phrases on a t-shirt. For example, "God Help Atheists" or similar humorous phrases? Or does the first creator of a t-shirt using this phrase have the copyright on this text phrase? Help appreciated Thanks Mik Message was edited by: Mik Ler
merch by amazon
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Careful Reader avatar image
Careful Reader answered
My experience is that some of those well-known phrases are copyrighted, and so it's best to search for them. I can't remember where the list is right now, but it's definitely out there. You might be able to find it by doing a search on Google. A lot of stuff, by the way, is copyrighted that has no right to have been copyrighted, so don't be surprised by some of the things you find. Oh, and while I'm thinking about it, watch out for using college names. For the most part, colleges and universities have their names copyrighted so they can make money on products.
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Holly S Hertzel avatar image
Holly S Hertzel answered
A good place to start is at trademarkia (dot) com. It's not the be-all and end-all, nor is it comprehensive of all trademarked sayings, but it's a very good start. You might be surprised at what is trademarked, and, as a CAUTION, some of those who hold trademarks/copyrights on slogans, sayings, simple drawings, etc will come after you without warning. Do your research,and protect yourself.
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Mik Ler avatar image
Mik Ler answered
> A good place to start is at trademarkia (dot) com. > It's not the be-all and end-all, nor is it > comprehensive of all trademarked sayings, but it's a > very good start. You might be surprised at what is > trademarked, and, as a CAUTION, some of those who > hold trademarks/copyrights on slogans, sayings, > simple drawings, etc will come after you without > warning. Do your research,and protect yourself. Thanks OK - So I looked up the phrase "Trust Me' (often used in shirts e.g. "Trust me, I am a nurse!") and on Trademarkia someone does have 'Trust Me' registered specifically mentioning 'Apparel' and 'Tshirt' Does that mean that I can't use just the two words "Trust Me" by themselves? Or, does it mean that I can't use the words "Trust Me" anywhere on a t-shirt? Heeeelp!!!
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Careful Reader avatar image
Careful Reader answered
That right there ("Trust me") is what I consider a perfect example of the U.S. Copyright office being phenomenally lazy about what's allowed and what isn't. One of the more infamous examples is of a guy who copyrighted the symbol for "pi" in which he added a basically unnoticeable period. He then issued take-down notices all over the place. Eventually, he was told what he could do with these notices, but it caused huge problems for an awful lot of designers. If the practice continues, every word in the language will be copyrighted and we'll all have to whisper to one another in dark places.
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Maverick Merchant avatar image
Maverick Merchant answered
Do you have link to 'Trust Me' registration. I can see some not granted and one that is for a specific logo, rather than just the phrase.
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Maverick Merchant avatar image
Maverick Merchant answered
Do you have link to 'Trust Me' registration. I can see some not granted and one that is for a specific logo, rather than just the phrase. I agree that the USPTO is lazy, actually inept and with no concerns about abuse of the system as far as I can see.
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Mik Ler avatar image
Mik Ler answered
Here is the link: http://www.trademarkia.com/trust-me-85935664.html If someone goes 'after me' in a case like this, is it good enough for me to just take down the item? I confess that I am starting to get scared away from the whole Tshirt industry....
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Maverick Merchant avatar image
Maverick Merchant answered
Mik Ler, that appears to not have been 'registered' as the registration number is not available. Further down you also see 'Applicant has not submitted proof of use in commerce the the USPTO.' which suggests to me it was someone hoping they'd get a trademark without having to prove why. I'd be happy to use the phrase, but not advising you to do so unless that is what you feel.
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Mik Ler avatar image
Mik Ler answered
Hi! >> that appears to not have been 'registered' as the registration number is not available. I think it was. "The USPTO has given the TRUST ME trademark serial number of 85935664". >> 'Applicant has not submitted proof of use in commerce the the USPTO.' Noted - and understood that this must be a 'trivial' application. But the fact remains that he has had the trademark for 2 years plus with a third extension granted... This is all very scary......... or am I overreacting... Thanks for your help Mik
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Maverick Merchant avatar image
Maverick Merchant answered
The serial number is issued as a reference for the application, it does not refer to a registered trademark. http://www.uspto.gov/trademarks-getting-started/trademark-basics/trademarks-what-happens-next explains regarding extensions - this is on 3rd and up to 5 are permitted. It is wise to be cautious, but in this case I see no reason to worry.
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