Many people get confused over Trademarks and Copyrights so this post explores what they are, the differences between the two and what to look out for so you can be aware and protect your business from any infringements.
What’s the difference between trademarks and copyright?
TRADEMARKS are protected words or phases and normally used to protect a brands name or a product name. Conscious Crafties is trademarked.
COPYRIGHTS are protection of a design. This could be a character from a cartoon or movie, photographs, a product etc
Sellers are often totally unaware they could get into serious trouble using the list below, because ‘everyone is selling them’. However using someone’s Intellectual Property to gather your own sales comes with a fine and a possible prison
sentence. Below are some commonly used trademarks:
ANYTHING Disney – both characters and font. A common misconception is thinking you can make things to sell out of character fabric like Micky Mouse – you can’t. You also cannot say “’Elsa Inspired’, ‘Frozen Theme’, etc in your title or descriptions. The word ‘inspired’ does not get you off the hook!
Super Heroes and Super Heroines – owned by DC Comics, Marvel Comics
Lego – owned by Lego Juris
Harry Potter – owned by Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.
Dr Seuss (and all quotes) – owned by Dr Seuss Enterprises
Minecraft – owned by Mojang Synergies
Minions – owned by Universal City Studios LLC
Cadburys – owned by Cadburys (you can’t say ‘Cadbury’s purple’ when trying to describe a colour)
Alice in Wonderland – owned by Disney Enterprises (they own all characters from the Disney film, however anything prior to the Disney film from the ‘Alice’s adventures in Wonderland’ book can be used)
Scrabble – owned by Hasbro Inc (use the term ‘letter tiles’ or similar)
Pandora – owned by Pandora Jewelry, LLC
Swarovski – owned by Swarokvski (you CAN say ‘Sterling silver and crystal necklace made with Swarovski Elements’, however ‘Sterling silver and Swarovski crystal necklace’ is NOT ok)
I Love You to the Moon and Back (along with ‘Love you to the moon and back’) – owned by Walker Books Ltd
Tree of Life – owned by Clogau
Onesie – owned by Gerber Childswear
Shabby Chic (use terms like distressed, rustic or antique instead)
Make a Wish – owned by Make a Wish Foundation
Keep Calm and Carry On – owned by Keep Calm and Carry On Ltd. However many ‘Keep Calm and…’ sayings – have also been trademarked so always check.
Possible Future Trademarks
Spoonie and Spoon Theory or anything that relates back to the spoon theory. So things like ‘sending you a spoon’ would be considered to be making money off Christine Miserandino’s theory. Currently Christine has said people can sell Spoonie related items if…
1. You donate at least 1 spoon related item to her a month.
2. Transfer 10% of item cost to her paypal account for every sale.
3. Give her credit on your product listing (wherever that may be Facebook, Etsy, CC etc) and link to the Spoon Theory page on her site.
Are poems copyrighted?
Yes, however if it’s over 70 years since a poem was first published then you’re ok as the item will be in the public domain. But the rules differ by country, so check the link in the comment above for country copyright timeframes
How long do copyrights last?
As a rule of thumb, in the UK, copyright lasts for 70 years, after that it’s in the public domain. But the rules differ by country, so you’re best to find out where the copyright
originated from. Here’s the list of country copyright timeframes https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries%27_copyright_lengths
Celebrity and character art
Did you know that most celebrities are trademarked? You can ask for permission from whoever owns the celebs trademark rights. So if you want to sell drawings of them you would need a license. The celeb doesn’t have to be alive either. The image of Elvis is one of the most carefully protected. With the exception of Marilyn Monroe who died whilst in New York
where publicity rights are not recognised so her name and likeness belong to all of us if in the public domain. However, its very important to choose your image carefully as most promotional photographs are subject to the same copyright protections as any other original work. You can’t copy someone’s photograph and call it your own drawing sadly.
When can you sell celebrity art?
With exception to carefully protected Elvis, a celeb’s ‘likeness’ is not copyrightable. However they do have what is know as “right of publicity”. If you draw a celebs likeness and start selling it without a celebs permission, you may be violating their “right of publicity”.
So, in summary, always research and if necessary request appropriate permission to draw a celebrity or a movie character (alive or dead, fictional or real, animated or human), and then if you are using a photograph to draw from, you also need to research if the photograph has been copyright protected and then request appropriate permission from the photographer too (or if it is a movie/TV still you are
using, it is more than likely you will need permission from the movie/TV studio). Once you have all those things in place, it might still be worth checking with a law professional, to make sure you completely avoid any potential trademark/copyright violations… eeeek!