Understanding Intellectual Property Basics
At Custom Slipmats, we are very excited to support our customers in producing great custom. In our efforts, we are also committed to protecting the rights of individuals and companies with respect to the content published on the Custom Slipmats Service.
Third party rights are based on a range of laws and legal standards that can be confusing. Those rights are each very different from the other and are often misunderstood. We have created this guide to provide very high-level information about certain types of legal rights and to help Custom Slipmats creators understand what is permissible on the service.
We have described some key rights below (trademark, copyright and right of publicity). In reality, the legal analysis for each of these rights is much more detailed and complex than our summary below. Still, we hope the information below is useful and will provide some guidance for creation of permitted products on the Custom Slipmats service.
What is a trademark?
A trademark is a word or symbol that indicates the “origin of goods,” meaning it allows consumers to identify the company that is ultimately responsible for a particular product. It is also intended to tell consumers about the quality and desirability of the product itself, so consumers are hopefully more likely to buy it. When a consumer sees the “BMW” mark on a car, there is a lot they will assume about the engineering, comfort and enjoyment they will have driving the car. That connection between the trademark (“BMW”) and the perceived qualities of the product (luxury, power, engineering excellence) has a lot of value in the market. Companies invest a great deal of time and money in developing that association between their mark and the products, because it can have a significant impact on sales. Reputation and brand mean a lot. The value itself is something companies work hard to protect.
What are trademark rights?
The concept behind trademark rights is that the owner of the mark has the legal right to stop people from trading off of the value of the company’s bran d and reputation. They can do so by stopping the use of any confusingly similar trademark. So if an unknown car company wants to use the mark “VMW” to identify their new car, BMW will be able to stop them from doing so based on the similarity of the marks themselves and the goods they are used to identify. Often trademark owners will also secure rights in other related goods that they want to sell – for example, t-shirts.
What does trademark mean for Custom Slipmats creators?
Custom Slipmats creators are not allowed to use third party trademarks unless they have permission. Custom Slipmats conducts preventive reviews of all campaigns to help ensure third party rights are not violated.
Copyright has existed for hundreds of years! The underlying idea is to give creators of certain works the right to control the reuse and distribution of that work (whether an exact copy or a modified version).
Copyright law says that a work has to be “original” to be protected. “Original” doesn’t mean innovative. “Original” in the legal sense means that the creator didn’t copy anyone else. Under copyright law, you are not entitled to use someone else’s work as a basis for your own. You have to originate your own works, creating them from scratch. For example, in one famous case, a photographer was found to have copied the photograph of another artist even though he used a different model and location. The details of the second photograph were so similar to the first (the look, layout and subject matter) that the court found copyright infringement.
Copyright is intended to strike a balance between freedom to be inspired and protection for those who create. For example, facts are not covered by copyright. Utilitarian works, such as instructions or recipes, are not covered. Everyone is free to use ideas and information. Copyright only extends to the unique expression of ideas, not the idea itself.
Copyright is not intended to limit sharing of ideas and does not cover the underlying idea itself. So the painter of a landscape can’t stop other people from painting landscapes. They can only stop other artists from using their specific painting as a basis for another work.
Though copyright does not cover ideas, to the extent the idea can be expressed in many different ways, each expression will be protected by copyright. But the components of expression, such as individual words and phrases or individual shapes and design elements, are not protected. The expression has to extend beyond the individual components. The simpler the design the less protection provided by copyright.
What does it mean for custom slipmat creators?
Custom slipmat creators are not allowed to use third party copyrighted works unless they have permission.
Right of Publicity and Right of Privacy
Right of publicity is very different than the legal rights provided by trademark and copyright and is a much simpler concept. Right of publicity is the right of famous people to control the commercial use of their name or likeness. So Taylor Swift has the right to decide whether her name or face will appear in a product advertisement.
Right of publicity is really a subset of the larger right of privacy that applies to all people. In the context of marketing and merchandise, that means each person is entitled to control the use of their name and image in a commercial context.
In keeping with right of publicity and privacy laws, Custom Slipmats will not be able to print shirts that include the name or likeness of any individual, including celebrities, unless we are instructed otherwise by the individual or their agent.
You can learn more about trademark and copyright using the following resources: