What's in a Trademark?
At Promo Marketing, we have a "do not print" list. I keep it hanging in my cube, just beyond my computer and always in my field of vision. On the list you'll find things like Kleenex, Star Wars, Disney, The White House and McDonalds.
Every company that appears on that list is there for the same reason: they rabidly control and protect their trademarks, and are not afraid to use legal force to do so. Even if it's just an example of imprint capabilities, we will not publish an image of an item featuring one of those logos.
Trademark suits have been appearing in the news frequently these days. In January we ran two stories about people busted for counterfeit apparel, and this week there's an uproar about China denying Apple the rights to the name "iPad" in that country. As a result, a Hong Kong company is suing the Cupertino giant for $1.6 billion for infringing on the registered name.
The legal issues aren't relegated to retail giants. In fact, for our industry, the threats are even more acute. I read an article this week about screen printers creating unauthorized apparel for the Oklahoma City Thunder. The printers in the article, who are just your average sports fans, embellish and sell the T-shirts like the kind you see at stands outside of stadiums or on the streets in major cities.
You and I know that those shirts and jerseys, if they feature a team logo, colors or player names, are illegal. But most buyers don't, and that's where you need to be cautious.
If you've been following Headlines the past few months, you've probably read about the lawsuit between Obama's re-election campaign and distributor Washington Promotions & Printing. In brief, Obama for America filed a suit against the distributor for trademark infringement on the Obama "O" used heavily in the 2008 campaign. Last week, the case was dismissed in Chicago's District Court, although the option was left open to re-file the complaint in another district.