Can You Get a Tattoo of a Trademarked Logo?

If you’re planning on a trademarked logo as a tattoo for yourself, it is best to consider copyright and trademark laws before you proceed with it. Certain stipulations by law make this a legal matter, especially if you proceed with tattooing without awareness.

In this article, we will uncover the legal aspects related to trademark logo tattoos.

Trademark Laws

Generally, a trademark exists to approve the sales of things. In case a person decides to put a trademark as a tattoo on themselves, we cannot define it as trademark use. The 13th Amendment of the U.S. Law states that one cannot sell a person. Therefore, no trademark law bans a person from tattooing a trademarked logo on their body.

The only exception here is when a trademarked logo will be illegal in the event a person gets it to represent a company. For instance, if a salon worker tattoos the logo of another famous salon on their arm, the law would consider it illegal.

Copyright

Copyright, on the other hand, does protect tattoos. The law states that those graphic and pictorial works that fix onto a physical object and depict complete originality have copyright protection. Merriam Webster’s dictionary’s definition supports the point by stating that a tattoo is a figure or indelible mark upon a body by inserting pigmentation under the skin or producing scars.

Under the light of this definition, we can state that a tattoo has complete copyright protection only if it is a hundred percent original depiction. Now here, originality does not synonymize with novel: it merely requires that the expression under consideration is original to the author and not a copy from someone else. It must, therefore, feature at least a sufficient amount of creativity.

To explain in simple words, it is not legal for you to copyright an idea, but you may copyright a particular image only if it does not have copyright protection. In case a logo you choose has copyright coverage, getting a tattoo of it will fall under law trespassing, and you may have to face legal action for it.

The law would define such trespassing as “reproduction” unless you can provide evidence in the court of permission to tattoo the image by the author.

Can You Be Sued for a Trademarked Logo Tattoo?

Yes, you can. Legal action for a trademarked logo is possible, and you may be sued for it. You can take the example of retired NBA All-Star Rasheed Wallace. Rasheed got a tattoo on an Egyptian theme: it depicted a Pharoah, his queen, and his three children in the year 1998.

Mathew Reed, a famous tattoo artist of that time, had tattooed this image on to the Star’s right upper arm. It so happened that in 2004, Wallace appeared in a TC commercial by Nike, in which he showed the recreation of the tattoo through computer stimulation, explaining its significance.

Reed found this quite an offense since he received no credit or monetary rewards, despite being the original artist. As a result, the tattoo artist sued not only Wallace but also the ad agency and Nike for claiming a piece of work that was his truthfully, as the brand’s own. He also filed an action in court claiming that neither the Nike brand nor Wallace nor the ad agency has sought his consent for this act.

While the matter came to a friendly settlement out of court, the fact remains that you can face legal consequences if you get a trademarked logo without the author’s consent.

How can You Check to See if an Image/Logo is trademarked?

As tattoo enthusiasts, we recognize the irresistible temptation to copy images of beautiful pictures or designs we see online. However, it is important to note that many of those are trademarked logos or come with copyright infringement, and it wouldn’t be wise to use them without permission.

To avoid the disastrous financial and legal repercussions you may have to face, it is best to confirm the source and verify whether or not their terms allow you to use their logo freely. Here is how you can verify:

1.     Contact details or image credits

If you fancy an image you saw online, you must search the caption for the name of the copyright owner or the image creator. Most details these days include the email id or a link to the creator’s website. With that info, you should reach out to the creator and request permission for their logo. Some may grant you a license for purchase, or you may have to agree with certain terms of use.

2.     Watermark

Spotting a watermark on the image is a clear indication of copyright protection on it. The watermark will most likely provide details of the owner and then reach out to the brand through Google search to seek permission.

3.     Reverse Image

In most cases, the reverse search image by Google is the best. It gives you the owner’s details when no other source might. All you have to do with this useful tool is to upload the logo link and trace its owner. With the contact details, you can reach out to them and ask for consent to tattoo their logo onto your body.

It is often the case with brands and copyright owners to actively monitor for cases of unauthorized use of their logos. If you have done your best to reach out to an owner for the request of using their trademarked logo but receive no response, it is best not to get a tattoo of it.

Proceeding to do so will give the owner the opportunity to sue you for inappropriate use of their logo, and there is no need to outline the unpleasant consequences after that.

Is it Illegal to Get a Disney Tattoo?

Disney logos, characters, and designs are trademarked and copyrighted; hence getting a tattoo is surely illegal. If you do not have Disney’s permission, you will be violating laws by tattooing their symbols.

However, here is an important piece of information. Several companies with iconic images and popular characters like Disney license their trademarks, only if one uses them within specific constraints.

You can take the example of imprint characters on t-shirts, depicting characters on cakes and greeting cards here. These have a license along with usage guidelines, and if the manufacturers produce these within the given terms, they remain safe from the law. Hence, for tattoos, too, the rule applies.

So long as the tattoo artist or tattoo parlor has a license from Disney with proper negotiating to use their logos or characters, etc., they’re safe from the law. But if one tattoos them without a subscription license, a royalty fee, a license, or whatever document it takes, they must prepare for the legal consequences ahead.

Will Tattoo Artists Copy Another Tattoo?

Technically speaking, a tattoo artist will copy another tattoo, especially if clients request it. However, there is no denying the fact that it is a debatable situation. When one copies the artwork of another and utilizes a specific design to create their tattoo, it is an infringement.

You see, even if it is not a trademarked logo or one with copyrighting, it is the original creation of another artist. If it is especially you took something off the internet and it comes with copyright laws, you violate the laws. By publishing work online, only the original creators have the right to the image.

If an artist seeks the original creator’s permission to replicate the design, we may consider it a legal act; however, as times evolve, legalities, considerations, and giving credit where its due is becoming a thing of the past.

You will encounter dozens of artists everywhere and tattoo wearers who feel no compunction in copying logos, designs, images, etc., of others and passing it as their own. To refrain from indulging in this, you can find an artist and work with them to custom design your own tattoo.

With this approach, you’ll be the owner of the artwork but only be taking inspiration from a source to create your design. This will also keep you under the safe boundaries of the law.

Final Thoughts

Tattoos have been the rage for a long now. From famous characters, athletes to logos, you will find a variety of depictions everywhere. There are certain stipulations by law for trademark logos that you must abide by when opting for a tattoo. Trespassing copyright infringement or copying logos without a license or official permission by a brand may cause you to face legal consequences later.


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