Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Billy Crystal Photo Release

Dear Rich: I work at the public library in Long Beach, New York -- that's the town where Billy Crystal grew up. The company which produces A&E Biography contacted us for yearbook pictures of him. They also want someone to sign a release in order to use the photos. Our lawyer said we can't do that because we don't own the copyright, and the high school also said no, although I guess they are the publishers of the yearbook. I suggested they contact Mr. Crystal directly. What do you think? I'm so glad you asked. The Dear Rich staff thinks your attorney provided a mahvelous answer. As the owner of a yearbook copy, the library has no rights to grant. The rights holder would be the yearbook photographer (unless the photographer assigned the copyright or took the photos under a work made for hire arrangement -- btw, the relevant copyright law would be the Copyright Act of 1909). The high school (or whoever is considered the yearbook publisher) may have the rights, but good luck digging up the documentation from 40 years ago. Contacting Billy Crystal is unlikely to help A&E (unless he knows the  photographer). Billy's consent is not required for the use of his yearbook photo in a biographic report. On another note, we think A&E's permission dilemma would be solved if Congress ever passed the Orphan Works Legislation.
Ennyway, let's just close with two takeaways: (1) we love public libraries and suggest if you need more assistance on library legal issues, that you check out the Library law blog, and (2) we love Long Beach, New York, where we used to go on summer weekends to play Skee-Ball (R.I.P.).

Reprint Rights from Dead Writer

Dear Rich: I would like to gain reprint rights to a book that was self published by the author in 1980. The author is now deceased. The inside cover states that no part of the book may be reproduced without his permission. What are my legal liabilities in this situation and where do I go to get permission?  I'm so glad you asked. The Dear Rich staff assumes that when you say, 'reprint rights,' you are referring to the right to reproduce the entire text, not just a segment. If the book was published in the 1980s, it is still under copyright and the rights to the book most likely passed to the author's estate. So you should start your research by attempting to contact the family. You may find information that can help by performing a search at the Copyright Office website, where you will find a tutorial on searching records. (We've also written about copyright research, here and you can get more information in our book, Getting Permission.) When searching through copyright records, you're looking to see if the work has been registered or assigned, or for any mailing address for the writer's attorney or agent. You should also document this search.

If your search for the new owner proves unfruitful, then you have to decide whether you want to proceed without authorization. Even if you are a founder of Googleunauthorized book reproductions will place you in line for a copyright lawsuit. Your two primary concerns are: 1) the likelihood of discovery, and 2) your legal liability. We can't guess at whether your use will be discovered, but the Dear Rich staff can tell you that your liability would include your legal costs, the copyright owner's actual damages, and any additional profits you've earned (unless there is a registration, in which case the damages would be statutory and based on the judge's discretion). In a worst-case scenario, you may have to pay the other side's attorney fees.

You might be able to mitigate your liability by creating an interest-bearing account into which you pay a reasonable royalty -- that is, what a reasonable publisher would be paying the author for such rights. That way, in the event the estate learns of your use, you can offer to pay these sums, which would hopefully demonstrate your good faith and lead to a legitimate license. Keep in mind that under this scenario, your use still constitutes an infringement and the estate is under no obligation to accept your payment.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Legal Issues for Celebrity Numerology

Dear Rich: You stated in your blog that you can use a celebrity's name for editorial or informational purposes. I'm a numerologist and author. If I were I to do someone's numerology chart and use it in a book or publication, is that usage allowable? The short answer to your question is "yes." To best avoid problems: (1) Don't include any celebrity photos on the cover of the book or in the advertising or promotion (that could imply endorsement and violate the right of publicity); (2) Get permission for all celebrity photos used in the publication (if you need information about stock photo usage and sources, check out our book, Getting Permission); and (3) If you are a celebrity numerologist and you are reproducing charts produced for any of your clients, be sure not  to  violate any client agreements, reveal any information that invades the client's privacy, and, if possible, for the sake of the Dear Rich staff, avoid attributing all of the celebrity's success to a single digit.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

(Not Copying) Indiana Jones in Video Game

Dear Rich: I have a question. I'm a video game designer and I'm in the process of developing a character inspired by Indiana Jones. His name is not Indiana Jones; it's Joe. And the game theme has nothing to do with an Indiana Jones movie. The game character is involved in fighting mummies in Egypt. He wears the khaki pants, button up shirt, has a fedora, and looks like he hasn't shaved in two days. He doesn't use a whip. I'm so glad you asked. Consciously (or subconsciously) it seems like your fedora-wearing, stubble-faced, khaki-clad adventurer who battles Egyptian gods borrows more than inspiration from Indiana Jones. Companies that own blockbuster series characters like Indiana Jones, Harry Potter, or Spiderman have an enormous investment in the continuing commercial success of their copyrighted juggernaut, and they tend to be hyper-vigilant in tracking down imitators. The enormous popularity and indelibility of these characters often makes it easier for the owner to win both copyright and trademark infringement cases. This combination of hyper-vigilance (they'll find you), indelibility (the public is likely to associate character elements with them, regardless if you make modifications), plus large bankrolls, does not bode well for your Indiana "Joe". The Dear Rich staff cannot determine if you will prevail in a lawsuit, but we do feel that there is a likelihood you will be contacted by the copyright owner.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Links, excerpts, articles and the DMCA

Dear Rich: I set up a blog aggregator. I don't have ads or anything, it's just for me and a few friends to use. I include excerpts of articles, links to the original articles, and some of the full posts of the original articles. Somebody claimed that I violated their copyright, sent a DMCA complaint to my webhost, who then took my site down without any notification or chance for me to make a correction. My host is now claiming that they have to immediately take the entire website down, without notice, because of the 1998 DMCA. I read about the DMCA at the Copyright Office website.  It doesn't say that a website has to come down immediately (or even seem to be very clear on how much written material constitutes 'infringement'). I'm a little confused, as most of this is new to me. Could you offer some insight? I'm so glad you asked. As for the content at your site: According to the Dear Rich staff, there is no problem with the links in hypertext form. Reproducing full articles is probably an infringement; providing excerpts is disputable. We presume a copyright owner sent a take-down notice to your online service provider (OSP), who acted "expeditiously" and removed the infringing content. By removing the material, the OSP qualifies for a "safe harbor" from any liability. If you dispute the notice -- many are abusive -- and you're willing to risk a court battle, consider a counter notice. (Here are samples and more information.) If the complaining copyright owner fails to respond to your counter notice by filing a lawsuit (uh-oh!), the OSP may re-post your content. These rules and procedures are part of the news-friendly Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Celebrities on clothing: Don't sue me, please!

Dear Rich: I was wondering, what are the rules on using celebrities faces and images from magazines if you alter them? I am a graphic designer who likes to alter images and print them on clothing for sale. I really don't want to get sued. Before we address your legal issues, the Dear Rich staff would like to address your fear of being sued. Yes, being sued is a terrible experience involving a loss of money, an affront to your dignity, a waste of your time, and a massive carbon footprint (all of which is summarized on your recession-proof legal bill). On the other hand, the statistical chances of you being sued for reproducing and selling a few hundred t-shirts with silkscreens of a celebrity is pretty slim. You may be threatened and you may receive cease and desist letters -- and you may even have to destroy your t-shirt stock -- but it's statistically unlikely you will be dragged into court unless you are selling thousands of shirts and you refuse to stop (or to settle). Keep in mind that businesspeople sue primarily based on a cost-benefit analysis related to the likelihood of compensation and success. (By the way, the above opinion is not official advice, just an observation derived from anecdotal evidence.)

Ennnyway. Sorry, to bore you with all that. As for the legal rules regarding the reproduction of celebrity images on clothing: (1) Celebrities control how their images or names are used on merchandise based on a principle known as the right of publicity. And unless you're modifying the image so much that the celebrity is unrecognizable (or you have the celebrity's authorization), you are violating the law. (2) The owner of copyright for the photo (usually the photographer) may also have a claim against you under copyright law. As you may know from the news, the measurement of infringement (and fair use) for altered photos is not always clear.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Design Patent on Golf Sculpture

Dear Rich: I have a question. I create golf artwork using mainly golf tees and spikes. I have worked with some major golf equipment companies using their accessories. (They commissioned me for sculptures and other products.) Since I've been burned by several companies, should I get patents on my sculptures? I'm so glad you asked. The short answer to your question is that you can protect your sculptures with copyright, and possibly with a design patent (although we're not sure if the cost, hassles, and time involved in seeking a design patent merits the filing). 

You already have a copyright on each golf sculpture. (You get it once you create the work.) But you will receive additional rights and benefits if you register your creations. The Copyright Office offers lots of helpful advice on sculptural works

It's possible that your creations may qualify for a design patent. Design patents are different than the patents we usually discuss (utility patents). In general, a design patent is strictly about appearances -- that is, it's granted for the ornamental or aesthetic elements of a device; a utility patent is about usefulness -- that is, it's granted because of what the invention accomplishes. In addition, a design patent lasts only 14 years from the date it's issued; a utility patent is valid for 20 years from the date of filing. A big difference between copyrights and design patents is that in a design patent infringement case, you do not need to prove that the other party copied your work, only that the two works are substantially similar. Despite that, design patents have a reputation as being more difficult to enforce.

The major concern that the Dear Rich staff has is that design patents are intended to protect ornamental designs for functional objects. (That's why the largest design patent portfolios are owned by companies such as Nike, Reebok, Nokia, and Toshiba.) But what is a functional article? Is a sculpture functional? Traditionally, the USPTO has maintained that ornamentation and usefulness are two separate attributes. Despite that claim, the USPTO has granted design patents to kinetic sculpture under the theory that the parts of the sculpture that move -- that is, the mobile aspects -- qualify as a functional object. That's the case even though common sense tell us that a purchaser is buying it purely because of its appearance. Therefore, because of the time it takes to acquire the design patent, the filing costs, as well as the possible objections from a patent office examiner (we're not familiar with the functionality of your sculptures), you may want to rely solely on copyright protection rather than seek a design patent. (By the way, we once co-wrote a relatively unpopular book on the subject of patenting art that explains how to file for a design patent.)

Friday, March 20, 2009

No Copyright (or Copywrite) for Tax Loophole Strategy

Dear Rich: I have a question. Is it possible to copywrite an unknown tax loophole strategy? Or maybe even repackage a common tax loophole strategy? First, a brief note: Although it may seem insensitive to some readers, this blog will no longer accept questions from people who use the word "copywrite" instead of "copyright." (Copywriting refers to the business of creating promotional or advertising text.) The spellings for  the three topics we cover -- copyrights, trademarks, and patents -- are indicated in our blog title, domain name, and within all of our entries. Since the Dear Rich staff works diligently to provide answers to your questions, we feel that as a matter of respect, readers can choose their words with the same diligence. As always, exceptions will be extended to those with disabilities.  
In answer to your question, no, you cannot acquire copyright protection for a tax loophole strategy. Copyright does not protect ideas, methods, or systems. You may be able to apply for a patent for a tax strategy (the first such patent was issued in 2003), though a recent court decision makes it much more difficult to acquire such patents. In general, the popular sentiment about tax strategy patents is not good and as a senator, President Barack Obama sought to end them.
Finally, you refer to an "unknown tax loophole strategy". By definition, tax loopholes are provisions in the tax code that are exploited for personal gain. Therefore, we assume by using the term "unknown" that you mean you are the first to discover how to exploit an existing tax code provision. That can be dangerous territory (and may sometimes be illegal) and we advise you to tread carefully when touting the benefits of your strategies. 

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Can a Co-Writer License at Less Than Market Value?

Dear Rich: If two songwriters collaborate and co-own their copyright in a song, can one writer issue a license for the whole song (assuming she accounts to the other for her share)? What if the other writer believes that the song was licensed for less than the prevailing market rate for that use? Can that writer sue the co-writer for destroying the value of the copyright? I'm so glad you asked. As to your first question, the co-owners share the legal rights to the song (assuming there is no agreement to the contrary). As joint copyright owners, each writer can separately grant permission (a license) for someone to use the song, provided that each writer shares the income with the others. Although each co-owner is entitled to receive money from the song, this doesn't mean that the two writers have to share money from the song equally. One writer may receive 30% of the income and the other may earn 70%. Each writer's share is usually based on the value of their contribution. This is a matter that is agreed on by the two writers. If the writers do not agree and the issue turns into a lawsuit, then a court will decide on the value of each writer's contribution. Courts often start with the presumption that all songwriters contributed equally.
As to your second question -- whether one writer can sue the other for licensing the song at less than market value -- we believe that it will be difficult to successfully assert this claim. Copyright expert Melville Nimmer reportedly argued that a co-owner has a duty not to "waste" a copyright. (This concept is borrowed from real property law in which a life tenant has a duty not to injure or waste the property.) However, our nation's leading copyright expert does not believe that a co-owner can assert this kind of claim. Even if you could make such a claim, keep in mind that you will have a heavy burden demonstrating that the value of the copyright has been depleted.
The Dear Rich staff believes there may be one caveat to these rules and that is if one songwriter licenses the first use of a song without the consent of the co-writer. Although copyright law does not explicitly require all writers to consent to the first recording, we believe that this approach is required because after the first recording, this first use triggers the rights of others to record the song under compulsory license rules. 
(P.S. Here are some additional tips for songwriters.)

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Script Based on a Fairy Tale Used in Disney Movie

Dear Rich: If I write a movie script about a fairy tale character that Disney has made a movie about -- say, Snow White -- can Disney claim copyright or trademark infringement? The script would be about what happened after the end of the Disney movie, for example. Aren't most traditional fairy tale characters in the public domain? I'm so glad you asked. Yes, traditional folklore and fairy tales are in the public domain and free for all to use -- for example, many writers have created books and movies based on Snow White. However, the scenario that you describe -- a script about what happened after the end of the DIsney Snow White movie -- is likely going to require authorization. That's because much of what we associate with that Snow White comes from Disney, not folklore -- for example, the individual names of the Seven Dwarves. Therefore, to safely pursue this course, you would need to separate out all that Disney added to the original Brothers Grimm story (including, of course, references to the songs). As for trademark rights, the Dear Rich staff has searched USPTO records and determined that Disney has filed for the federal registration for "Snow White" for entertainment services (Ser. No. 77618057), but has not (so far) convinced an examiner that it is entitled to the registration.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Business Software Copyright and Ownership

Dear Rich: I developed an Excel Workbook for use by business brokers. I have allowed business brokers in our parent company to use this Excel pricing model. I filed a copyright on the software and received a trademark on the name for the software. I have also used a third-party compilation software to compile the program so I can set an expiration date, EULA, etc. The program now requires a registration key that is locked to a specific computer. My question is what right do I have regarding the copies of the Excel version that are being used by people in our parent company? Can I require them to destroy the Excel files and use the compiled (executable) version? I'm so glad you asked. Assuming that you developed the software in the course of your employment, then your company owns the copyright under work made for hire rules. And assuming you are using the standard definition of "parent company," there's a strong possibility that the parent owns the assets of your subsidiary company, including the intellectual property. So, under those facts, you would not be in a position to tell them what to do with the software (since they would own it).
If you created the software independently -- for example, before working for your current employer (or if you signed an agreement that granted you ownership of the software rights) -- you would own the copyright. Keep in mind, registration of your copyright does not prove that you own the underlying work; it creates a presumption of validity and ownership. The Dear Rich staff cannot advise as to the copyrightability of software code embedded in the formulas of an Excel spreadsheet. As far as the trademark goes, you acquired a federal registration on the Supplemental Register under your own name in 1999, not your company's name.  (As you may be aware, the Supplemental Register provides limited trademark rights.) Since the Dear Rich staff does not know all of the dates and facts regarding your case, we recommend that you contact a lawyer to look at your paperwork before you assert rights against your parent company. 

Monday, March 16, 2009

Protecting Puppet Characters

Dear Rich: I have a question. I would like to produce a television series that has a host of puppet characters. If I copyright the show, does that protect my characters? Or since they have a distinct identity and expressive features should I go ahead and trademark each of them? I'm so glad you asked. Provided you have created distintive puppet characters, the copyright on your television show should protect the puppet characters (just as the copyright on Sesame Street protects the famous Muppets). The great Judge Learned Hand established the standard for character protection in Nichols v. Universal Pictures Corp., when he stated that, "...the less developed the characters, the less they can be copyrighted; that is the penalty an author must bear for marking them too indistinctly." 
For example, an alien stranded on earth is a popular and recurring character and by itself, without embellishment, is not protectible. But when that character has a distinctive appearance and demeanor (for example, as seen in My Favorite Martian or The Man Who Fell to Earth) or a distinctive lexicon (for example, he repeats the phrase, "Phone Home") then the character is likely to be protected. Trademark protection is also available for characters, but the Dear Rich staff would recommend that you wait until the puppets are earning money before you pay the $300+ filing fee (per puppet per class of goods). (Always keep in mind that your trademark registration is intended only to provide rights in the class of goods or services that you register.)

Copyright for Patent Drawings?

Dear Rich: I am writing a chapter for a technical book and I want to use drawings from patents. Do I have to get copyright clearance? If so, from who? The publisher needs the clearance before they will accept my work. Aren't patent applications and issued patents in the public domain?
I'm so glad you asked. The Dear Rich staff wishes it didn't have to use mitigated speech, but the short answer is that you probably don't need clearance to reproduce drawings from published patents. According to the U.S. Patent Office, subject to some exceptions, "the text and drawings of a patent are typically not subject to copyright restrictions."
What makes the issue confusing is that (1) copyright office regulations (37 CFR 202.10(a)) do not prohibit registration of patent drawings; and (2) patent examiner regulations (MPEP 1.84 (s)) permit copyright notices and copyright claims regarding authorship in patent text or drawings. Which is why we end up returning to mitigated speech and why some attorneys answer your question by saying, "it depends".
The Dear Rich staff has been reproducing patent drawings freely and our publisher has done the same in its books about patents. We believe that even if not specifically exempted from copyright protection, the reproduction of patent drawings likely qualifies as a fair use since the drawings are used for transformative purposes. Finally, if you do seek to obtain permission, you should start with the person claiming patent rights. That person or entity may not always own rights in the drawings but they can likely direct you to the person who has the rights.
Postscript: Stephen Fishman, author of our favorite public domain treatise, brought our attention to the 2003 case, Rozenblat v. Sandia Corp. 69 USPQ2d 1474 (7th Cir 2003). In that case, the Seventh Circuit, acknowledged the copyrightability of an inventor's patent drawings (although ruling against the inventor as to the issue of infringement).

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Punk Rock Video Rights

Dear Rich: My friends and I have some old video footage we took from punk and new wave bands from the early 1990s. Some of these are local Bay Area artists and some are national artists. We never got release forms from the artists, but they knew they were being filmed and didn't demand anything. Could we release these videos for profit? What about releasing them on YouTube? What about making a documentary? I'm so glad you asked. We assume that you have videotaped musical performances, in which case you could have problems with all of the uses you propose. It's true that you (or whoever took the videos) owns the copyright to the video. But the artists (or the artists' publishers) control the rights to reproduce the music. You need what's referred to as a sync right -- which is the right to match visuals to a musical performance. (Sample sync rights forms are included in the book Getting Permission). As for the non-musical footage that you shot, you probably are free to use that for documentary and YouTube purposes. The fact that the artists knew they were being filmed does not provide you with any rights, although a lawyer might try to argue that the failure to object implied consent. Based on the Dear Rich staff's personal observations, individual posting of unauthorized music videos at YouTube doesn't have dire consequences other than disabling of your YouTube account. However, you should assume -- as with all infringing uses -- that the more you profit, the more likely you will get hassled.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Transferring Permissions to LLC

Dear Rich: I am getting ready to obtain written permission to use portions of books on a website I'll be creating. If the permission is obtained by me personally and then I form an LLC or corporation, do I need to go back and get permission again, or is the permission granted to me under my personal name enough? I'm so glad you asked. The short answer to your question is that you probably don't need to get a second set of permissions. Unless your permission agreement prohibits assignment or transfer of rights, you can transfer your permissions when you convert your sole proprietorship to an LLC or corporation (or any other business entity). If your permisson agreement prohibits transfer or assignment, you need to read the fine print -- for example, some provisions permit transfer if it is to an entity owned by one of the parties but not to anyone else. Other provisions require that you go back to the other party and get an okay for the transfer.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Consigning Art to Financially Troubled Gallery

Dear Rich: I have a question. I am an artist and have a fair amount of artwork on consignment with a gallery that is in trouble. Although we have worked without a specific consignment agreement until recently, I have submitted one for them to sign. Do I need a UCC statement as well? I deliver the art to a company in California that has galleries in several states. I'm so glad you asked. The short answer to your question is that filing a UCC statement can't hurt and may help. Filing a UCC (Uniform Commercial Code) statement (known as a UCC-1 Agreement) at the time of consignment in the county where the gallery is located will elevate you to the level of a secured creditor -- a status that may get you more money than if you were unsecured in the event of a gallery bankruptcy. (It may even result in the return of your artwork). Unfortunately, you will probably need an attorney's help to file it. The tricky issue in your case is the relationship between the company to which you deliver artwork and the galleries -- that is, whether you must file the UCC statement in one county or many counties. (Your attorney can advise.) Some states attempt to protect artists in your position with laws like California's Civil Code Section 1738 et. al. Another approach to protecting art is a consignment agreement. Depending on what it says, it may shield you from some losses (and may be required under some state laws). The Dear Rich staff has prepared a helpful article on consigning art that may answer your questions.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

More Questions About Painting and Copyright

A note to our readers: Thanks so much for all the questions. The Dear Rich staff is currently experiencing delays of two to three weeks. Our most recent entry about paintings and posters triggered some followup questions, so we'd  like to get those out of the way.
Question #1: Dear Rich: You said that painters control the right to make posters from their  paintings. How hard is it for the painter to enforce? How often does it get enforced? I'm so glad you asked. The chances of enforcement usually depend on the ability of the copyright owner to attract and pay an attorney, which in turn depends on the lawyer's assessment of the odds for victory and the depth of the infringer's pockets.
Question #2: Dear Rich: It seems like a painting is the result of many contributions and elements. Someone creates the pigment, someone manufactures the paint, someone makes the brushes. Why do the rights end with the artist? Why should the artist's rights be any different than the rights of a house painter? I'm so glad you asked. Assuming you're asking the question, "Why does our government reward artists with copyright?" the answer is because the wealth of a nation is sometimes measured by its patents, copyrights, and trademarks (intellectual property). These products of the mind bring in (and lose) big bucks, and so government grants a limited monopoly to encourage their creation. By the way, those who create tools for artists can patent their ideas as well -- for example, the invention of the collapsible tube is credited with the birth of Impressionism.
Question #3: Dear Rich: I have a friend who is a patent attorney who said it isn't necessary to copyright my paintings or place a small letter "C" at the bottom of my painting. He claims that if I have signed the painting and someone copies it and then sells it on the open market that they are open for a lawsuit. If, however, he copies the painting and gives it to friends there is no problem. I think the copyright thing is just another lawyer scam, or a small "c" at the bottom of the painting is like a sign saying "beware of the dog." I'm so glad you asked (though the Dear Rich staff is unsure if there is a question here). Your patent attorney friend is correct that you do not need to register a copyright (though there are benefits for doing so), and since March 1989, you don't need to  include copyright notice (though it's a good idea to do so). As for copying the painting and giving it to your friends, we're not clear as to your friend's source. Although there are rules regarding "limited publications,"  there is no "friends" exemption for reproducing visual images. Finally, as much as we like your "beware of the dog" analogy, we think you are incorrect that copyright is a "lawyer scam" -- and we think Charles Dickens and Eminem would both agree with our conclusion.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Paintings, Posters and Copyright

Dear Rich: I have a question. I recently bought a painting. Can I make posters from it? Can I sell them? I'm so glad you asked. Assuming that the painting is protected by copyright law, the short answers to your questions are, "No," and "No." According to the  Dear Rich staff  the painter, as copyright owner controls those rights (unless they've been transferred to someone else

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Microsoft Clip Art in Book

Dear Rich: I have a question. My cousin is working on a little book for high school students planning to go to college. She wants to use the clip art from Microsoft Word. Do you know if there is a copyright problem in doing so? I'm so glad you asked. Unfortunately, there is a problem. According to Microsoft's official permission statement, "You may not use clip art to illustrate the chapters of a book." The Dear Rich staff believes that if your publication is limited to a group of local high school students, there is unlikely  to be an issue (unless the students have relatives on the Microsoft legal team). However, if your cousin seeks to sign a publishing deal, there will be an issue when the publisher seeks clearance. 

Monday, March 2, 2009

Trademarks for Marijuana

Dear Rich: I have a question. Can you get a trademark for a logo to sell medical marijuana? I'm so glad you asked. If you mean, can you acquire a federal trademark registration, the short answer is, "Yes." (It helps to describe your services as a "retail store services featuring natural herbs and organic products.") Also, doctors who prescribe marijuana can register their logo as well. Changes in marijuana enforcement (and proposed legalization) may lead to more marijuana-related registrations. (The Dear Rich staff wonders about the legal hurdles facing one recent applicant -- seeking MARIJUANA for "herb teas for medicinal purposes" (Ser. No. 77654053).