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
    Michial Thompson, 14 Apr 2011 @ 5:35am

    Trademark Case

    I am not so sure that Trademark could be entirely ruled out. The person wearing the tattoo would not be at risk under trademark law, but what about the person applying the Tattoo?

    If the artist is being paid for the work wouldn't that possibly be defined as being used for commercial purposes or gain?

    Isn't there also cases where Pro Players have been forced to either cover their art, or remove it? I think those cases where the Artist actually suing though. There are definately cases where the Pro Players refuse to allow the Artist to display pictures of the tattoos in their Shops. I know a number of artists that have done tattoos on "famous" people, but cannot display the pictures in public for fear of lawsuits.
    When it comes to Tattoos, IP laws are so vague because there really aren't too many cases that have went to court to set the presidences.

    I wear numerous Tattoos of Angels and Demons which were highly inspired by early religous artwork and even the bible it's self, would the church really come after me for such artwork? Would I go after the artist if he put my work on someone else? I have asked that he not do that, but I trust in him being a friend and don't have papers signed requiring it.

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