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Trademarks. Everyone hates them – and I fully understand that! I mean, in a world without trademarks, you could make big bucks on anything and everything. Unfortunately, that’s not the way the world of intellectual property works.
Lately, I’ve seen any number of myths (and excuses!) crafters keep using to justify infringing on trademarks. Today, I’m going to debunk a few of them – once and for all.
6 Trademark Myths You Have to Stop Telling Yourself
- I’m too small to get caught. I see crafters use the line of thinking that since they aren’t a registered business or are a single member business that they won’t be caught. Actually, all the major corporations have departments to protect their brand(s) and trademark(s). In the overly connected world we live in, they can (and do!) find individuals selling trademarked products through social media or craft fairs.
- If I get caught, I’ll just get a cease and desist letter and I will stop selling then. It’s well known that companies often send out cease and desist letters (C&D notices) as their first line of defense against infringers. Unfortunately, there is nothing that states that companies have to first send out a C&D. They could simply begin legal action against you. Additionally, a copyright/trademark infringement notice filed against you in a marketplace can leave a permanent strike on your record (for example: Etsy).
- I’m using a registered trademark, but it is okay because it falls under Fair Use. I see crafters trying to defend their use of trademarks all the time claiming it is Fair Use. While Fair Use is a complicated matter, I can’t think of any situation where creating a handmade product and selling it with the trademark of another would be considered Fair Use.
- It shouldn’t have been approved as a trademark, so I’ll use it anyway. I’ve seen this a lot on popular trademarks like ‘hubby’ and ‘wifey’. Both terms have live trademarks. Despite whether or not you think that the USPTO should have approved the trademark, you still have to respect it and abide by the trademark laws.
- I’m a newer seller and I’m not familiar with all the trademark issues, so they will cut me a break. I hate to break it to you, but when a company decides to take action against you for trademark infringement they don’t care if it’s your first offense. They don’t care if you’ve been selling for 15 years or 15 minutes. If you are new to selling, I’d recommend you research, research, research trademark issues.
- I made this for personal use only, so it’s not a trademark infringement. While you might think that using a trademark in your personal designs is legal – I just have to remind you that it is not. Whether it’s a Disney cartoon character on a shirt for your next vacation or a trademarked phrase on a wooden sign to gift to a friend – it still isn’t legal. In cases of personal use, just make sure you know the facts. In nearly all cases, a major corporation is not going to come after a private person using their trademark for no monetary gain. Why? It isn’t worth it to the company because there isn’t money to go after.
Need more help with trademarks? I’ve got a whole section on the blog dedicated to them. View it here.
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