Ch. 3: Trademark Infringement: Yes, You Can Be Liable for a Client's Infringement
Pt. 2: Tools of the Trade: How to Avoid Trademark Infringement
When a client suggests you use their new slogan, brand name, or design, don't just take their word for it. Ask your clients where they got the idea. Do some due diligence. Even if you didn't come up with the idea in question, you could be named in a lawsuit.
To help you avoid committing trademark infringement, try these tips:
- Search the USPTO's trademark database to see if similar trademarks are already in use for new slogans, branding, and logos.
- Remind clients to consult with a trademark lawyer about registering their mark.
- When you refer to other brands and use their trademarks, make sure you do so correctly (see the International Trademark Association's Guide to Proper Trademark Usage [PDF] ).
- Know that an Errors and Omissions Insurance policy may cover lawsuits over trademark infringement — but insurance almost never covers cases when you knowingly violated law.
- Use logos, branding phrases, or other materials that could be confused with a competitor's.
- Assume your clients have done their homework — instead, verify that properties don't infringe on existing trademarks.
First Come, First Served: A third party can sue you for infringement as long as they used the phrase or image first — even if they haven't registered their trademark.
Next: Ch. 4. Work-for-Hire Agreements: Who Owns Creative Property?