Thursday, January 2, 2014

Wants to Sell Handmade Mr. T Puppets (or Puppies)

pity the pooch
Dear Rich: I want to sell small handmade puppies of Mr. T. I am not planning to make a big amount of money, but I wouldn't like to have any problems. Do I need to contact any trademark office, pay a fee, or is there no requirement? The Dear Rich staff doesn't like to mess with our readers' questions but we think you're referring to handmade puppets, not handmade puppies (maybe you're a victim of auto-correct?). In any case we'll provide an answer for both scenarios.
Selling handmade Mr. T puppets. If you manage your sales privately and without much fanfare, you're probably fine. But if your puppets are spotted by Laurence Tureaud (aka Mr. T) , then you might receive a cease and desist letter. We assume Mr. T enforces his right of publicity (the right to exploit his personna for commercial purposes) based on the varied collection of kooky merchandise that he exploits. If you seek to register a Mr. T trademark for the puppets, you will also run into a problem because trademark law prohibits registration of the name or likeness of a living person (Mr. T. is alive and even has his own app!) without that person's consent.
Selling handmade Mr. T puppies. If you will simply be shaving the dog's head to resemble the Mandinka warrior hair cut popularized by Mr. T, you may face animal cruelty issues. As for any attempts to exploit the Mr. T name or personna in your marketing, see above for the right of publicity issues.

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