by Mike Masnick

Filed Under:
copyright, tattoo, trademark

Is It Infringement To Get Your Favorite Sports Team Logo Tattooed On Your Body?

from the maybe... dept

Interesting timing. Just after we were discussing the copyright implications of tattoos, jprlk points us to a recent issue of The Straight Dope, in which Cecil Adams takes on the question of the legality of tattooing your favorite sports team logo on your body somewhere. He goes over both the trademark side and the copyright side. There's no trademark issue (in most cases) because there's no "use in commerce," which is required for a trademark infringement situation. There may be a copyright issue, but Adams suggests teams would be crazy to go down that route so it's probably not an issue:
Copyright violation is an easier case to make. (Some contend a fan tattoo would constitute fair use, but I have my doubts.) The main thing is, what team or league would bother? They'd look like bullies, your pockets probably aren't that deep, and it's not like a judge is going to order you to have the tattoo lasered off. Then again, we're talking about professional sports, where conventional logic is out the window.
He's right about that last comment. After all, just look at the Washington Redskins, who have sued fans and threatened bloggers. While he hasn't done it yet, it would not surprise me to see Dan Snyder eventually go so far as to sue a fan for having a Redskins tattoo without paying him for the privilege of promoting the team.

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Apr 2011 @ 7:29am

    Re: Trademark Case

    Trademark infringement requires "use in commerce to distinguish goods and services." If it is a famous person, that is a publicity rights issue, and by far the vaguest area of IP law.

    As to your religious tattoos, you're probably ok on the copyright front because (a) the likely basis work will be public domain, if it was ever protected in the first place; and (b) at least as long as you're not commercially, publicly displaying your tattoo, then the infringement was the artist, not you, since he did the fixation. Even though you're the canvas.

    On the trademark front, the Church would have to claim it was using that early religious artwork to distinguish its goods and services in commerce. I'd like to see the Vatican own up to that.

    Finally, if you don't want your tattoo artist to put your tattoo on someone else, you make part of the agreement be that the copyright in the tattoo transfers to YOU as part of the deal. Generally, a good idea, lest your tattoo artist go around suing everyone who photographs you with your shirt off.

    If this were legal advice, it would be followed by an unreasonably large bill.

    p.s.: the word is "precedents"

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