Can You Legally Make & Sell Products with Emojis?

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Recently, a Cutting for Business reader sent me a question that I had never considered: Can you legally make and sell handmade products with emojis on it? Basically, she was asking whether or not emojis are trademarked. This sent me into a flurry of research about emojis. Today, I’m sharing it with you.

Can You Legally Make & Sell Products with Emojis?

First, you have to understand that emojis are a part of Unicode. Let me explain this through an example: When you send an emoji to your friend using your phone – it will be the same emoji whether your friend speaks English or French. In this manner, emojis are similar to the alphabet. In the same way that you can’t trademark a letter of the alphabet, you can’t trademark a specific emoji.

However, emojis fall under copyright laws. There are several slightly different versions of emojis. For example, Apple has their own version, Google has their own version, Twitter has their own version, and so on. To be able to use a specific version of an emoji you would have to obtain licensing of the copyright owner. For example, if you wanted to use the ‘Tears of Joy’ (similar to this one ????) that Apple uses, you would have to contact Apple for licensing information. But, if you wanted to use a variation of the ‘Tears of Joy’ emoji, you would just have to find a commercial use set and purchase it – or you could draw your own.

This link shows a good comparison of the ‘Tears of Joy’ emoji variations.

Can You Use Emojis in Handmade Products?

So, can you? Yes, as long as you are using an emoji from a set you’ve purchased or downloaded that allows commercial use. You can think of this as being similar to commercial use fonts.

Also, you could obtain licensing to use a set like Apple’s, although this would be much more expensive.

Free Commercial Use Emoji Sets

I did some homework for you and found two free commercial use emoji sets:

Interesting fact: While researching, I found that there is no consensus on whether or not the plural of ’emoji’ is ’emoji’ or ’emojis’.

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6 thoughts on “Can You Legally Make & Sell Products with Emojis?”

  1. So, could I draw/design my own emojis and use them on my own created items to sell? Someone told me that the emoji idea was copyright and if I draw my own emojis to sell (for example on a cushion or water bottle) I would still be breaching copyright?

  2. Hi, Christine.
    Thanks for the article – very useful. Could you clarify, please? In your article (3rd paragraph) you seem to state that drawing your own version of an emoji would not breach copyright, but in your answer to a question at the end of the article you state that drawing your own version and using it commercially would still be breaching copyright. I that so, or did I get you wrong? Which is it, please?

  3. I am the president of a local volunteer emergency service and would like to use an emoji in a logo I have designed. This is NOT for commercial use or sale but an identifier for our members on a t shirt, a momento of their time and service during the 2019/2020 fires. Is this legal or do i have to purchase copyright

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