Defunct sport team logos on t-shirts.

'Is it legal', 'can I do this' type questions and discussions.
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Defunct sport team logos on t-shirts.

Post by slammin418 »


Firstly, apologies in advance if this has been covered previously, had a quick look with the search tool but couldn't find the answers I was looking for.

I am looking in to printing the logos of defunct British ice hockey teams on to t-shirts, for a new range with an existing clothing company. I have searched the gov website to check if the teams are trademarked and the vast majority are not, so (in my limited understanding) I believe the issue would just be one of copyright. Is this correct?

I have searched for any contact details to request a t-shirt license for several of these defunct teams but it is extremely difficult to find who, if anyone, would possess the rights as they went out of existence years ago.

I read something about copyright in the UK lasting 70 years after an artists death. Would this be something that applies here? If so, would it be 70 years after the death of the person who first created the logo, or 70 years after the team went out of existence?

Please excuse my ignorance and any help on the matter would be greatly appreciated.

Many thanks,

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Post by AndyJ »

Hi Sam,

It sounds like you are on the right track. Where you have eliminated registered trade marks (incidentally, trade marks which are not used for a continuous period of five years can be challenged and revoked) that just leaves the copyright issue. The copyright in any logos will be based on the lifetime of the artist, plus 70 years, assuming, that is, that the logos have sufficient originality to attract copyright. Since the originality threshold is pretty low, it is best to assume that copyright will apply. Of course as you suggest, the likely owner of the copyright would have been the club which commissioned the artwork, and the current owner may be very hard to track down.

This sort of situation is exactly why the Orphan Work licensing process was created, and it may well offer you a satisfactory - and legal - solution to your problem. Check the details on the IPO website.
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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