Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Sniffing out dog treat logo trademark

Dear Rich: I have a question about a logo for my business. I just started a dog treat business and loved a public domain clip art picture of a dog. I flipped the picture, changed the color, added some shading on his ear, added hearts above his head and grass under his feet. I added my logo, too. I found the original image on the WP Clipart web site. I emailed the site author with a copy of my changes and asked if since it was public domain, could I use it commercially. He said yes. I am now wanting to trademark or copyright my logo. If so which one do I do: a trademark or copyright? The Dear Rich Staff -- who is wondering why we're getting so many dog-related questions these days -- reports that if you want to preserve the exclusive right to use this image with your dog treats, you'll need to (1) start using it in connection with the sale of your treats (that is, on the packaging or in the advertising) and then, if you have the  budget, you should file a federal trademark registration. Assuming the image is truly public domain (and it looks that way from the source website), then the coast is clear. Keep in mind that anyone else can use the same dog as their trademark, as long as it is does not compete with you in the field of pet food and dog treats. As for copyright, you have a copyright in the version of the dog you created although anyone else is free to use the original without infringing your dog. By the way (insert FTC disclaimer), our employer is one of the few websites to offer help for dog owners and trademark owners.