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Trademarks. Many people hate 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.
Table of Contents
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.
I’ll Just Get a Cease & Desist Letter
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).
It’s Fair Use
I see crafters trying to defend their use of trademarks all the time claiming it is Fair Use. Fair Use is a complicated matter, and most uses of another’s trademark do not fall under Fair Use.
It Shouldn’t Be Trademarked
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 New Seller and Don’t Know Much About Trademarks
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.
It’s for Personal Use Only
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.
Since 2015, Christine Schinagl has been helping crafters start and run craft businesses through her blog, Cutting for Business. As a Silhouette and Cricut crafter herself, she has a unique take on what works and what doesn’t work in the craft business world. She also teaches a course on creating digital SVG designs, available at How to Design SVGs.