Using copyrighted or trademarked images

'Is it legal', 'can I do this' type questions and discussions.
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Using copyrighted or trademarked images

Post by pmarr74 »

I have a hobby hand engraving glass, metal and wooden items and have friends that make requests for vases and suchlike. For instance I have engraved vases with football team badges and slogans, and also with the badges of youth organisations (i.e. Scouts), and University logos and all sorts.

When possible I try to use images I have generated myself, for instance I have sketched some prominent local buildings and engraved them on glass momentos, but is a building like Edinburgh Castle, or are univeristy buildings allowed to be represented in such a way?

It is difficult not to make items with existing trademarks on them. What would happen if I tried to sell such items, say with football badges or whatever on them, on ebay? Also what would happen if I sold something like that at a local craft sale, car boot sale or something like that?

Also, would a football club or organisation ever be likely to allow their trademarked logos to be used in such a way? Does an application to use something that is trademarked cost a lot?

As you can tell I really know nothing about such things, and want to try to continue my hobby in a profitable yet legal way, and any help as to where to look for if things are trademarked or not, and what to do if they are, would be greatly welcomed and appreciated.

- Paul
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Post by AndyJ »

Hi Paul,
There are quite a lot of different issues here, but you have correctly identified that not infringing trade marks is the major point. Although badges* and logos will be copyright as artistic works, I think this factor is generally less at issue here.

The reason for the trade mark protection which most of these badges and logos will have, is to prevent others from trading on the goodwill and reputation of the owner body. Clearly the reason why something bearing the engraved badge of a favourite football team is desirable to a person is directly because of their support for that team. Thus by selling an object so engraved, you are trading on the connection and thus would run the strong risk of infringing the trade mark or being found guilty of passing off, which is the civil wrong (or tort) of deceiving the public that your product originates from or is endorsed by, the real trade mark owner. Even organisations such as the Scouts or universities will seek to protect their intellectual property to ensure their reputation is not tarnished by the sale of products ostensibly connected with them, but which in fact they have not approved. In all these cases, you should seek permission to use the badge or logo. The cost of doing this will vary enormously and will depend largely on the perception of the value of the trade mark in that particular area of the market and the number of units you would be seeking to sell. Clearly without permission, where and how you sell your items will determine the likelihood of you running into trouble: ebay being at the high-risk end, and car boot sales at the other end.

Where you want to engrave a picture of a building, you are on much firmer ground, provided your image is original and not copied from someone else's photograph, drawing or painting (unless of course you have their permission). That said, with many iconic buildings such as Edinburgh Castle, it would be difficult for someone to conclusively prove that you copied their work when you could go there yourself and take a very similar photograph or sketch the same scene. Very few buildings can be registered as trade marks for a number of technical reasons, so that presents less of a problem.

* You should be aware that the badges of some organisations, such as the older universities and some football clubs, are in fact armorial bearings (often referred to as Coats of Arms) and as such are subject to special rules about who may reproduce them. It's a bit too complicated to go into here, but there is a special court known as the Court of Chivalry which deals with cases of alleged misuse of armorial bearings in England and Wales. Scotland has a different system which can be enforced through the criminal law.
Advice or comment provided here is not and does not purport to be legal advice as defined by s.12 of Legal Services Act 2007
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