How much do I have to change a copyrighted or trademarked logo to be able to use it in my design?
We often hear from our customers the common misconception that “It’s okay to use a copyrighted/trademarked design, logo, or saying if you change it 10%.” Not only is this not entirely true, it’s also possible for all parties involved to get in a lot of trouble with the law, since these logos are federally protected. It’s also a common misconception that you can use a famous line from a movie, TV show, or song on your t-shirts. This is incorrect as well—using these could also get you and your screen printing company into trouble with the law.
Companies and organizations who have made the decision to have their logo, font, saying, or design copyrighted or trademarked pay fees to ensure that no one else can use what is legally their property. This is why it poses a such a huge problem when our customers want to use logos that companies like Disney, the NFL, and Harley Davidson own. No matter how much you change the logo, we are still dealing with copyright infringement. With something as serious as copyright infringement, both the customer and the company printing the shirts can end up in very severe trouble. Here’s a list of significant trademark cases from the United States:
If you find yourself wanting to use some or all of a company or organization’s logo and you don’t own the company or organization, you will need to get a letter with written consent from the registered owner saying that you have their permission to use the logo in question in your design. In some cases, you will be asked to buy these limited permissions from the company or organization so that you can use them. Geiger will not print anything that is even questionable when it comes to potential copyright infringement to protect ourselves and our customers.
That being said, the easiest way to avoid any of these potential issues and questions is to come up with a completely original design with sayings, logos, and fonts that are uniquely yours. Here, on our website, we have a custom logo design studio that will help you to come up with a design: