Photographs of mass produced items

If you are worried about infringement or your work has been copied and you want to take action.
Post Reply
alrodgers
New Member
New  Member
Posts: 3
Joined: Sat Jan 15, 2011 4:04 pm
Location: UK

Photographs of mass produced items

Post by alrodgers » Sat Jan 15, 2011 4:15 pm

Hi - I wonder if anyone can give any advice?

I am interested in using a couple of photographs in posters/ greetings card/ leaflets which feature mass produced products.

The first photo features a sweet. There is no company logo in view, and the (Trade Marked) name is not used. Having checked, the manufacturer's website says that the logo and name are protected, but nothing about the appearance/physical shape of the sweet. Should I worry about infringing anyone's rights by using a photo (taken by me) of the sweets as an illustration?

The second photo is of some toy figures (Playmobil). I know that the trademark/ name will be protected, but should I worry about infringing rights if I wanted to use a photo (taken by myself) of a 'family' of Playmobil figures on a poster to advertise a family event?

I can't seem to find a conclusive answer by searching online - so any advice would be much appreciated!

Thanks

Al.

User avatar
AndyJ
Oracle
Oracle
Posts: 1939
Joined: Fri Jan 29, 2010 12:43 am

Post by AndyJ » Sat Jan 15, 2011 4:54 pm

Hi Al,
From what you say you want to do, I don't think you will be falling foul of any intellectual property rights. Being three-dimensional objects, both the sweets and the Playmobil figures probably attract unregistered or registered design rights, but merely using them within a photograph does not infringe that design right. By avoiding the companies' logos or trademarks again you are not infringing any rights in these. The main thing to avoid is any situation where you could be accused of passing-off (ie trading on the good reputation of the products concerned), or implying that the companies which make them somehow endorse or are connected with your posters or greetings cards. In the case of the cards, it might be worth printing a very small disclaimer to this effect on the back.
I have seen some commercial art featuring Lovehearts in a pattern, and a well-known website for IT professionals (www.theregister.co.uk) often uses Playmobil characters to 're-enact' certain events in the news, so you should be in good company.

Footnote. From this article http://www.theregister.co.uk/2010/01/27 ... challange/ it would appear that the makers of Playmobil actively encourage people to use their products in videos etc on YouTube, which strengthens my feeling that your proposal will not be a problem

alrodgers
New Member
New  Member
Posts: 3
Joined: Sat Jan 15, 2011 4:04 pm
Location: UK

Post by alrodgers » Sun Jan 16, 2011 4:05 pm

Thanks very much for this Andy - really helpful.

On closer inspection, I notice that the Playmobil characters have copyright symbols on the soles of their feet - and I'm curious about what that is actually copyrighting. Does copyright apply to mass produced 3D objects?

Al.

User avatar
AndyJ
Oracle
Oracle
Posts: 1939
Joined: Fri Jan 29, 2010 12:43 am

Post by AndyJ » Sun Jan 16, 2011 4:25 pm

Section 4 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act says:
"4. Artistic works.
— (1) In this Part “artistic work” means—
(a) a graphic work, photograph, sculpture or collage, irrespective of artistic quality,
(b) a work of architecture being a building or a model for a building, or
(c) a work of artistic craftsmanship
."
So in theory a single three dimensional Playmobil figure might seem to be an artistic work, similar to a sculpture. But the courts have ruled that mass produced items of this sort cannot attract copyright. That is why Design Right was created. So your guess is as good as mine as to what the copyright symbol is meant to apply to here.

alrodgers
New Member
New  Member
Posts: 3
Joined: Sat Jan 15, 2011 4:04 pm
Location: UK

Post by alrodgers » Sun Jan 16, 2011 7:56 pm

Thanks - again, really helpful.

Al.

typonaut
Experienced Member
Experienced Member
Posts: 79
Joined: Fri Dec 31, 2010 9:09 pm
Location: London

Post by typonaut » Wed Jan 19, 2011 7:34 pm

The current legal position seems to be that the Playmobil characters do not attract protection as artistic works (Lucasfilm v Ainsworth - but this is awaiting appeal to the supreme court). Rather they would be protected under s52, where such would be recognised as designs and have a protection term of 25 years.

As Andy has noted above, the major concern with your plans would be that of passing off - so avoid your designs looking like an endorsement from the producer of the products.

Post Reply