Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Can I Say "Life is Good" on Zazzle Products?

Dear Rich: Could someone register a phrase as a brand name and not let anyone else use that phrase? For example: I created a design using the words "Life is good when the fish are biting." I posted it on Zazzle.com  and a couple days later they took it down saying I may be infringing on someone's intellectual property. I asked who it was and what proof did they have. They gave me this website address: www.lifeisgood.com. I thought the words "life is good" was in the public domain and no-one could own those words and/or prevent others from using that phrase in a sentence. Can they do that or are they trying to bluff me?
We don't think they're trying to bluff you. You can freely use "life is good" in a song lyric, or as the title of your book or for other copyright purposes, but you'll run into problems using it for trademark purposes on merchandise like t-shirts, hats or ceramic cups.
How two brothers cornered the "life is good" marketplace. Life is very good for the two brothers who own Life is Good (LIG), a Boston-based t-shirt and licensing company. The brothers were struggling t-shirt manufacturers until they stumbled on their bright-sided branding mantra. Nowadays LIG generates $100 million stamping their optimistic message on greeting cards, coffee, pet supplies, frisbees, cups, musical festivals, and a whole bunch of other products and services desired by an ever-hopeful ever-consuming world. Along with this licensing and expansion, LIG has made a serious investment at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office where LIG registrations have been issued in dozens of classes of goods including backpacks, dog leashes, luggage, bed blankets and towels, children's and baby clothing, toys, etc.
Bottom line department. Other companies have acquired trademark registrations for "Life is Good" (and its variations) for products or services not exploited by LIG. Further, you may even be able to prevail in a dispute by demonstrating that consumers are not confused -- that is, your phrase is distinguishable. But practically, we think LIG has the legal firepower (and legal presumptions) on its side. Keep in mind, that LIG has even become embroiled in disputes with people manufacturing "Life is nutz," "Life sucks" and "Life is gay." As much as we hate to see the English language cordoned off by manufacturers, we think you should consider moving on to another line.