With few exceptions, all of the quilting books, sewing patterns, and embroidery designs you purchase have licensing restrictions that disallow reproducing, copying, and other temptations. It can be really confusing to understand all of the terminology associated with a product’s licensing, especially if you try to read all of the fine print.
Before getting started, let me explain that I am not an attorney nor am I attempting to offer legal advice. If you desire legal advice, your best option is to contact an attorney who specializes in Copyright and Trademark law. The basic content contained in this blog post does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such.
In this blog post, I’m going to try to explain the following:
- What is a © Copyright?
- What does ® Registered mean?
- What is a ™ Trademark?
- What is a Notice?
- What is an End User Licensing Agreement?
- What are Restrictions that you may find regarding commercial use of the product you purchased?
Nearly everything we purchase has a licensing symbol. Sometimes it is located on the product, a tag, the packaging, or an inserted document. Licensing symbols attempt to advise you of reproduction or distribution of a product or logo may be illegal. In most cases, folks who make a copy (or copies) of a pattern, embroidery design, book, etc., are not aware that they are breaking the law, and of the seriousness of doing so, which equates to stealing. They may also not be aware of the stiff consequences and fines associated with such actions.
What is a Trademark?
A trademark is a proprietary term that is usually registered with the United States Patent and Trademark Office to assure its exclusive use by its owner. A trademark is also a distinctive mark or feature particularly characteristic of or identified with a person or thing.
According the United States PTO, a trademark “includes any word, name, symbol, or device, or any combination, used, or intended to be used, in commerce to identify and distinguish the goods of one manufacturer or seller from goods manufactured or sold by others, and to indicate the source of the goods. In short, a trademark is a brand name, slogan, or logo.”
A trademark may be designated by the following symbols:
- ™(for an unregistered trade mark, that is, a mark used to promote or brand goods)
- ℠(for an unregistered service mark, that is, a mark used to promote or brand services)
- ® (for a registered trademark)
The essential function of a trademark is to exclusively identify the commercial source or origin of products or services, such that a trademark, properly called, indicates source or serves as a badge of origin. In other words, trademarks serve to identify a particular business as the source of goods or services. The use of a trademark in this way is known as trademark use.
What is a Trademark violation?
A trademark violation is an instance when a registered or unregistered trademark is used by someone other than the person who owns the name, slogan, logo, or other proprietary interest. This action can hurt trademark owner for various reasons.
An Example of a trademark violation
The famous Coca-Cola logo is an example of a trademark, as is “Dunkin Donuts” and many other product names. Certain product shapes, including the Leggs pantyhose packaging and the original Coca Cola bottle shape, are also trademarks. If you were to digitize one of the above examples, and embroider it on a t-shirt, you would be violating the trademark, even if you do not plan to sell the t-shirt. The owners of trademark has the exclusive right to create and sell products and services using their trademark.
Considerations for names
The use of the name “Apple” by Apple Computers, for instance, is not a trademark violation of the trademark belonging to Apple Records because the firms are so different that a reasonable person would not be confused.
A warning if you think you won’t get caught
A company must aggressively protect its trademarks against violation. 15 U.S.C. § 1127 provides that a company can lose a trademark if “any course of conduct of the owner, including acts of omission as well as commission, causes the mark to become the generic name.” This means that trademark owners MUST come after you if they find out you have violated their trademark! If they don’t, they risk losing their trademark status.
A formal notice
When someone is in (or suspected of) trademark or copyright violation, a letter may be sent to the infringer. This notice is called a Cease and Desist letter. If you receive one of these letters, it is usually from an attorney representing the trademark or copyright holder. These letters are very specific. In the letter, you are notified that the work you are copying, distributing, selling, etc., are protected and you are commanded to stop doing what you are doing. These notices usually contain strong language with respect to law suits, injunctions, etc. You do NOT want to be the recipient of a notice.