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socrateaser
socrateaser, Lawyer
Category: Intellectual Property Law
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Experience:  Retired (mostly)
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Can you use a trademark logo that has been pixilated with the

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Can you use a trademark logo that has been pixilated with the words beyond recognition when referring to a company in a brochure. For example: A vise with a parts company logo on one side and an equipment company logo on the other referring to how they squeeze the profit out of the product for all of the other distributors that sell it
If you are using the trademark to make a political statement, then that is fair use and there is no infringement.

If you are using the trademark to sell some other product or service in preference to the trademark, and that trademark is recognizable to an ordinary person, regardless of the pixelation, then you are at risk of being sued for dilution. In order to sue on this ground, the mark being diluted must be "famous." A famous mark is determined by:

(1) the degree of inherent or acquired distinctiveness; (2) the duration and extent of use; (3) the amount of advertising and publicity; (4) the geographic extent of the market; (5) the channels of trade; (6) the degree of recognition in trading areas; (7) any use of similar marks by third parties; (8) whether the mark is registered. 15 U.S.C. 1125(c).

Since this issue must be determined by a court, a large amount of the risk is determined by whether or not you are willing to pay to defend yourself, even if the mark is not famous. Defending a dilution lawsuit could easily run $10,000-$20,000 or more.

The easy way to protect yourself is to obfuscate the trademarks so that no person can reasonably identify the competitor(s).

Hope this helps.
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

So I could actually put the companies names (with a general font) in place of the pixilated trademarks and not be on thin ice?

As long as you're not marketing someone else's merchandise (using your example, a vice) with your mark as a replacement for the actual manufacturer's mark.

A vice is a fairly generic tool. Ninety-nine out of 100 probably look the same. But, a Stanley vice may be distinctively black and yellow, so that anyone in the biz would recognize it as more than just a vice.

If it's a generic vice, then you can mark it up as you wish, because you're not marketing a particular product. If it's a famous manufacturer's vice, and it's obvious to an ordinary consumer, then you are at risk.

Hope this helps.
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Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Attached my revised copy with only company names in a font and color that resembles the logo. Am I off of the thin ice with this?
logo question

This is a pretty complicated new question. I'm not even sure what it is I'm looking at.

1. What is it that you are selling (auto shop heavy equipment, auto parts, etc.)?

2. I don't know enough about vices to determine if this particular vise is generic or instantly recognizable among potential consumers of your product(s). Is it generic (y/n)?

3. What is the source of the background advertisements? Are they yours, or your competitors?

4. With respect to #3, do you have permission to use pictures of the products that are displayed?

5. What is the message that you are trying to convey in the advertisement? It may be obvious to you, but I'm not in your business, so indulge me, even if the answer seems to be self evident to you.

Thanks in advance.

Thanks in advance.
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

1) Competitive Auto Lift and Tire Changer company


2) Vise is generic off "shutterstock"


 


3) The background are multiple sale sheets from various auto parts companies that sell equipment


 


4) In my opinion they are small enough that a person can not tell what brand of equipment they are.


 


5) We are trying to win over equipment distributors (primarily lift and wheel service) who have watched their margins fall as the auto parts companies continue to sell more and more equipment, not worried about the gross profit on that equipment, but rather in a bid to get the parts business from the end user (repair shop owner)


 


Hope that helps to explain

For trademark infringement purposes, you may want to pixelate the vehicle logos, so that the manufacturers don't claim you are trying to associate the vehicle brad with your or someone else's product(s).

The bigger issue here may be copyright infringement, because you are copying the creative work of your competitors without a license. Title 17 U.S.C. 107 permits "fair use" of the copyright protected work of another, but where the use is for a commercial purpose, the line can be very gray.

If you want to avoid any risk of liability, then you will have to replace the competitors' ads with fake ads that you create using stock art for the vehicles and lifts. Otherwise, you are at risk, especially if all of your competitors were to group together and pool resources to sue you for infringement. That would reduce their costs substantially, and put you in a very weak position from the standpoint of legal expenses.

I hope you will consider treating this as a new answer worthy of separate compensation. Of course, that's entirely your decision, but I have spent a fair amount of time here trying to keep you out of the "soup."

Hope this helps.

Hope this helps.
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Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Is there any way to get confirmation of payments? I assumed there would be an email invoice. Thank you

I have no access to your account information. I "justanswer" the questions. I'm sure that if you contact customer service, they will be happy to provide you with whatever information you require.

Thanks again for your contributions. Please let me know if I can be of further assistance.

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