Copyright and trademark

UPDATED: Oct 11, 2017

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Copyright and trademark

Hi, I have an Etsy business and am making shirts, but I was wondering about
copyright and trademark laws. Are the silhouettes of famous characters such as
Disney princesses protected? What about specific font types, such as the one
used for the title of Harry Potter? Or movie quotes?

Asked on October 11, 2017 under Business Law, Florida


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

The silhouettes of current (or reasonably current) famous figures are almost certainly protected by copyright law (as original graphic creations) and/or trademarks (as symbols used to identify the business). That fact that it is a silhoutte, rather than a front view or a color picture, does not diminish the protection: essentially, if the thing is copyrighted and/or trademarked (which it almost certainly is, if it is a famous, and hence valuable, character) and the silhoutte is recognizable (which is the only reason you would be doing this), then you are violating their intellectual property.
Remember: both copyright and trademark give the rights holder the exclusive right to create modify the original property or create derivative works based on it (copyright) or to market using a recognizable expression of that logo, image, etc. (trademark).
As to fonts: you most likely cannot use that font for the name of the character, since it very likely that, for a famous character or property, that the combination of name plus the font they always use is trademarked; but you could use the font other than for the name. Take "Star Wars": "Star Wars" in the font they always use is very recognizable and is part of their trademark. But you could use the "Star Wars" font for (or example) "Bob's Pizza Kitchen" without liability.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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