Signature copywright help

'Is it legal', 'can I do this' type questions and discussions.
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Newboxuser
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Signature copywright help

Post by Newboxuser » Mon Apr 13, 2015 1:18 pm

I've been searching around and can't find the answer, I'm currently in the process of making some new products from wood (Mainly motorsport themed)

I have created some motorsport drivers signatures out of wood to mount on my work.

Could this be a problem?

Thanks in advance for your help

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AndyJ
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Post by AndyJ » Mon Apr 13, 2015 3:17 pm

Hi newboxuser,
I assume that you are copying the actual signatures of some of these drivers.
In the UK there is no law of personality rights (unlike say, California) so on that level there shouldn't be a problem. But you need to be careful not to imply (or at least allow the possibility that someone could assume) that the signature was an endorsement of your product by the driver whose signature appears on it.
There was an important case a few years back involving the Formula1 driver, Eddie Irvine, who successfully sued a radio station because they created an advertising flyer featuring him, which suggested that he had authorised the use of his image to promote the radio station and was thus endorsing the station. Talksport Radio appealed but the Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal. This case was important because it extended the civil tort of passing off into the area of celebrity endorsements, and has been successfully deployed in argument in later cases of a similar type.
The main factors which are considered in a passing off case are:
  • a. Goodwill on the part of the claimant
    b. Misrepresentation by a defendant leading to customer confusion as to the origin of the goods or services
    c. The misrepresentation leads to damage (including to reputation) to the claimant.
There can be little doubt that well-known motorsport drivers will have goodwill in their personality because fans will recognise them, follow news about them and no doubt take notice of products which they appear to endorse. And clearly the sale of products which they haven't endorsed might will impact on their reputation, and if they already have lucrative sponsorship or advertising deals, this could also cause financial damage due to the effect on their ability to win future sponsorship.
And so you need to be punctilious in avoiding the misrepresentation aspect, which doesn't need to be either deliberate or in bad faith to be found to be present in an action for passing off. You will need to put disclaimers on the product and in any advertising for it. It has been argued in other passing off cases (mainly concerning aftermarket car parts) that you also need to ensure that a subsequent owner is not misled into thinking the product has been endorsed by the personality concerned. This would suggest a disclaimer is required to be permanently affixed to the product, although I am not sure this is strictly necessary in your case.
If you are still in doubt, it would be sensible to get proper legal advice from a solicitor who specialises in intellectual property law before going ahead.
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

Newboxuser
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Post by Newboxuser » Mon Apr 13, 2015 3:22 pm

Thank you for your advice.

So going forward I think to cover myself I will engrave a disclaimer on the reverse of the product along with a disclaimer on our website with the products.

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