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copyright question

Discussion in 'General Signmaking Topics' started by timstudio, Nov 10, 2020.

  1. timstudio

    timstudio Member

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    Some clients ask me to customize carstripings by adding a logo. For example the '500' for Fiat, of the 'Ka' for Ford.

    It's easy to find that the Fiat and Ford logo itself are copyrighted, though i can't find out if the '500' and 'Ka' are copyrighted.

    It seems logical that these are copyrighted, but where do i find out?
     
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  2. jcskikus

    jcskikus Owner, Designer & Installer

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    Anything regarding a logo for any car, whether it be the company logo or model/trim logo, will be copyrighted and trademarked as to how it is going to be used and model sheets on them. OPRA makes the paperwork open to this in Washington D.C. at their respective departments. Unless you are going to mass produce these, I wouldn't worry at a one off.
     
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  3. Stacey K

    Stacey K I like making signs

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    I agree. I wouldn't worry about doing one for some random person.
     
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  4. Lance

    Lance Member

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    Would it be a good idea to note on any invoice that the logo section of the stripping job was not charged for ?
     
  5. Billct2

    Billct2 Major Contributor

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    Charging or not charging has nothing to do with it. But to do a single logo for someone on their vehicle or whatever has a very very low chance of getting noticed. I wouldn't post a photo though.
     
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  6. signbrad

    signbrad Member

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    Logos copyrighted?

    If a logo consists of mere lettering, even if the lettering is stylized, or if a logo consists of lettering together with common shapes, it is not protected by copyright law.
    Surely, neither the Fiat logo nor the Ford logo contain what the US Copyright Office calls "sufficient authorship" to qualify for copyright protection. These logos are just letters and common shapes.

    Sometimes a logo does contain enough artistic content to qualify for copyright protection. The Hot Wheels logo is copyrighted, for example. So are a couple of the Tesla logos. American Airlines' newest logo received copyright registration after a nearly two-year court battle. But probably, the majority of logos in the US are not copyrightable.

    Logos are trademarked

    Fiat 500 and Ford Ka are, however, both protected by trademark law, not just the logos, but the words themselves are protected as trademarks in addition to the logos.
    The purpose of trademark law is to identify the source of goods or services. For example, no other car manufacturer but Ford would have the right to put the word "Ka," or the Ka logo, on its vehicles. If it's not made by Ford it can't have a Ka logo.
    Trademark law is about preventing confusion among consumers as to the source of goods —and preventing unfair practices between businesses. It's part of a body of law designed to prevent unfair business practices.

    So...the question is really about trademark infringement. Would incorporating Fiat's stylized "500" into a stripe on a Fiat car (or two) be trademark infringement? Maybe. Who knows for sure unless you ask Fiat? They would be the one to make that determination. The law puts the responsibility squarely on the shoulders of the trademark owner to determine what constitutes infringement, subject to a final decision by a court. The law also requires trademark owners to police their own trademarks. If they don't do it no one else will. And if a trademark owner chooses to ignore a particular use of one of their marks, then is it not the same as no infringement?

    It's for sure that the Ford oval script and the Chevy "bow tie" have been duplicated countless times in all kinds of ways. If Ford and Chevy has chosen to ignore these "infringements," it may be because they don't view them as a threat in any way. And if they don't view them as threats, what will they do about them? Nothing.

    Trademark infringement is not a crime in the same sense as, say, murder. When a murder is committed, the criminal must be found and brought to justice to answer for the crime. Whoever pulled the trigger must be held accountable. It's not enough to just stop murdering.
    When there is trademark infringement, however, the goal of the trademark owner, generally, is to simply stop the infringement, not to "bring the infringer to justice." And trademark owners usually want to do this the cheapest way possible. A cease-and-desist letter is the weapon of first choice. If a letter stops the infringement, then the goal has been achieved—game over.

    And who receives the cease-and-desist letter? If you make a Ford Ka logo that ends up as part of someone's car stripe, who will Ford contact in the unlikely event that they decide to do so? Probably the car owner. The owner will be told, "Take it off." That stops the infringement.

    Our sign shop has been involved several times in creating signs with trademarks that the trademark owners claimed were infringements. In each case, it was the sign buyer that was contacted by the trademark owner and told to take down their signs. We were not contacted, even though we made the signs. In fact, we got the jobs to re-do the sign work.

    In 2013, when ReMax demanded that a competing real estate company stop using signs that ReMax claimed were trademark infringements, the competing realtor refused and it went to court. The competing realtor lost, and could no longer use the signs, besides ending up with legal expenses. What about the sign shop that made the signs? Were they in trouble for making the signs? No. They were essentially ignored. Except that their work order was used as part of the evidence presented by ReMax against the other realtor. The work order had written on it the words, "use ReMax red and Remax blue." Obviously, no one believed that the sign maker had not acted in good faith.

    It was a totally different situation when, several years ago, a screen printer in Kansas City began selling clothing with major league sports trademarks. He was not licensed to do so by the trademark owners and all his inventory was seized and his shop shut down. The NFL, in particular, is very aggressive about policing trademark infringements. And it's no wonder, since sales of NFL merchandise is greater than ticket sales (especially right now).

    Similarly, if you were mass producing decals with Ford trademarks and marketing them without obtaining some kind of licensing, Ford might go after you. Obviously, you would not be innocently acting in good faith, and they might do more than just send a cease-and-desist demand. They could go to court to not only obtain an injunction to stop you, but also get all the money you made (times three, usually) of the decal sales.



    Brad in Kansas City
     
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  7. timstudio

    timstudio Member

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    Thanks!
     
  8. signbrad

    signbrad Member

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    Timstudio,

    I just now realized you are in Netherlands. My comments about logos and letter styles commonly not being protected by copyright is based on US law. The US has taken this position for a long time, though I think it is uncommon in the rest of the world.
    Because of this, we have the weird situation that fonts are protected by copyright here, but typestyles are not. The design of letters here is not protected, though the underlying digital code is protected (as a computer program).

    This is confusing because so many people use the English word "font" as if it were a synonym for typestyle. Some use it as if it were a subset of typestyle. Of course, the meaning of font may permanently change eventually to the way it is commonly used now.. That is the nature of language, right? It is a living animal, growing and evolving.

    Fonts were originally collections of metal type. Fonts were purchased from metal foundries and stored in cabinets in printeries. Fonts were used to print typestyles. The word did not mean typestyle or letter style.
    The word "font" was not even used in sign making shops until recent years. The letter styles sign makers used were called "alphabets." That is why if you search Google documents from the 1800s you will never see the word "font" used in books on sign making. Same with books on stone-carved lettering (gravestones). The word "font" was not in their trade vocabulary either. It was strictly a printers' word referring to the collections of metal type.



    Brad
     
  9. Stacey K

    Stacey K I like making signs

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    I typically write a generic hand receipt for this kind of thing, and other small orders. There's not much reason to create a new customer in the accounting system for this kind of one off thing. If they insist on paying with card then it's "one time customer" "decal" in the accounting program. You would be rather foolish to put Jane Doe, 2 Chevrolet Bowtie Decals, $50, 3/30/20 - even though the odds are small, no need to be stupid about it. If it's a business then just put DECAL in the description. When you save your file you can save it more specifically as nobody except YOU will ever see that.
     

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  10. timstudio

    timstudio Member

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    Well, I'm not taking any chances anymore. Just had lots of problems with two carbrands who slammed me with a clam for using inappropriate product-titels. Example: I sold my own striping designs shown on different car brands as brand x striping 1, brand x striping 2, brand y striping 1, brand y striping 2 etc.

    Though it was perfectly explained in the description that these were our own designs, produced by ourselves they made a claim stating that clients might think it was their striping and I was guilty of intellectual property infringement. I had to alter it in striping 1 suitable for brand x etc.
    No logo's etc were used. I've seen a lot in my life, but this was unexpected. They charged me for the full profit of every product sold the last 5 years. Luckily it were the least sold brands :)
     
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  11. Gino

    Gino Premium Subscriber

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    Question for many of you. Those who say, it's a one off or will fly under the radar, does that mean, it is no longer illegal to do it ?? Just because you won't get caught it's alright ??

    So, if I'm working in an office and I take a roll of tape home, the company won't know it, it's not stealing ??

    How do you people set examples for your kids or other fellow employees ??
     
  12. Johnny Best

    Johnny Best Very Active Member

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    I just go to confession on Friday night, say three OurFathers, three HailMarys and I am good to go for all my sins. A stolen roll of tape from the office is just one HailMary.
     
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  13. Jester1167

    Jester1167 Premium Subscriber

    Just call it a stripe kit on your line item and move on. We used to do these all the time for stripers that installed kits on the dealer's lot.
     
  14. Gino

    Gino Premium Subscriber

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    What if you're an atheist ?? You don't have anyone to confess to except your wife ?? Will she believe you the next time you say, I was working a little late ??
     
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  15. GAC05

    GAC05 Major Contributor

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    Are we talking a good roll of 3M blue painter's tape or one of the cheap generic off brands (the kind that tears and leaves a bunch of glue behind)? I'd be pretty disappointed with my kids if they brought home the latter. I would hope that I had taught them better than that.
     
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