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Thread: Copyright/NFL fabrics

  1. #1
    Super Member janRN's Avatar
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    We've discussed copyrights before and I've read definitions on legal sites but I still have some questions that I hope someone here can answer. I made my grandson a quilted throw with Steeler fabric-so far this is okay. A couple of other people saw it and requested I make and sell them one. If I read the law right, this is not okay. Last week I was at a craft show and every other booth seemed to be selling NFL sstuff (mostly Steelers in this area). There were table runners, scrub tops, dog collars, dog coats, you name it, they were selling it. (Around here you could paint a rock black and gold and sell it.) My question: is this legal? Who would stop them? What happens if they are "caught"? Thanks so much for all you help.
    Peace-Jan

  2. #2
    Super Member CajunQuilter2's Avatar
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    I was explained that you can not make it and market it as a business as though you represented the particular team. But you can make things with it and sell as home made items at fairs & such. I see this everywhere.

  3. #3
    Senior Member AtHomeSewing's Avatar
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    Sell items if you wish it is legal to do so.

    Check out Precious Moments vs. La Infantil where the First Circuit Court ruled that the copyright owner's right to distribute the work is limited by the First Sale Doctrine, which permits the owner of a legally acquired lawfully made copy of a work to sell that particular copy without the consent of the copyright holder".

    What the First Sale Doctrine means is that when the rights-owner sells rights (licenses) a company to manufacture fabric, and that fabric is distributed into the open market, the copyright holder loses control over what is done with the item.

    The court rejected the copyright claim made by PM, stating, ""bedding items manufactured with lawfully acquired, authentic fabric with copyrighted design were not infringing derivative works."

    You can not however make a claim that the finished product YOU make from this fabric is licensed, unless you obtain that license. You can use the licensed fabric you bought and make things for sale.

  4. #4
    Super Member ghostrider's Avatar
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    There are significant differences between copyright, trademark, and licensing laws and what you con legally do, and/or get away with, in each case. Check here for starters http://www.quiltingbusiness.com/quilting-copyright.htm
    http://www.tabberone.com/Trademarks/...edFabric.shtml
    The Steelers and all "tradesmarked" organizations, have invested huge amounts of time, money and effort in the creation and marketing of their trademark images. They are understanably quite concerned with how that image is represented to the public.

  5. #5
    Senior Member AtHomeSewing's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ghostrider
    The Steelers and all "tradesmarked" organizations, have invested huge amounts of time, money and effort in the creation and marketing of their trademark images. They are understanably quite concerned with how that image is represented to the public.
    Doesn't matter, those corporations sold rights to have fabric made for sale to the public and can not under existing law stop people from making items for sale with that fabric. Those items can not be represented as licensed, however the use of the fabric, and statements that they were made from licensed fabric is perfectly legal.

  6. #6
    Super Member ghostrider's Avatar
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    I am not disagreeing with you at all, merely stating the corporate reason for going after people they believe will not fight them in court. If you read the information on the links I posted, it backs up your statements fully. 8) Look before you leap...

  7. #7
    Senior Member AtHomeSewing's Avatar
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    Sorry, I wasn't trying to start a disagreement, I was contemplating your comment ...

    "They are understanably quite concerned with how that image is represented to the public."

    I should have worded my response more carefully. What I wanted to convey, is that those corporations gave up that control, so it doesn't matter too much what their concerns are. They certainly realized that they could not control what is made and whether that is sold, gifted or what. And I imagine any attempts to make trademark claims would fall short since trademark laws only apply when the seller deliberately claims that the item is an original (such as a knock off).

  8. #8
    Super Member janRN's Avatar
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    You guys are great-I knew you'd have answers. I interpreted this the same way--I'm not saying NFL-endorsed or Steeler-endorsed so I'm okay. BUT--one of the legal sites (can't remember which one) said someone posted items made with NFL fabrics on Etsy to sell and the NFL presented them with a "cease and desist" order. Is this a case of "going after the little guy"? Another question: can I post a picture of my throw on this site (not to sell--just to show)? I'm so sorry if I seem dumb about this. I just want to do the right thing but if I can make a few dollars selling these to friends I'd like to do that without problems. Seems silly but I'm always the one who "gets caught"!! Thank you so much for all the time and information you've shared with me.

  9. #9
    Esqmommy's Avatar
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    I'd say do what you want and if you get a "cease and desist" then you make the decision whether you want to fight it or stop making that product. I believe the opinion stated that you can sell it, but not as a licensed product is the correct interpretation of it - you have the right to make/sell your products as those fabrics were put in the stream of commerce. The manufacturer pays to get the license to use the team name as they are the first buyer. You can do what you want with it. Believe me, they have better things to do than come after a home quilter selling individual quilts!!

  10. #10
    Power Poster amma's Avatar
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    I would love to see what you made!!! Ofcourse you can post a picture of any quilt you make in the Pictures section of the board!!!
    I would be careful of advertising them using the word "Licensed." Even if you just said using "Licensed fabrics"....that may be the words that trips a switch somewhere and would get you unwanted attention :wink:

  11. #11
    Senior Member billswife99's Avatar
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    Great post, I wanted to ask about this too. I want to make a quilt to donate for auction or raffle with Harley Davidson on it but was reluctant because of these same issues.
    Oklahoma University raided a craft show here not too long ago. The ladies were not using licensed products but were actually reproducing the logo and team name. It caused quite a stir at the craft fair!!

  12. #12
    Esqmommy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by billswife99
    Great post, I wanted to ask about this too. I want to make a quilt to donate for auction or raffle with Harley Davidson on it but was reluctant because of these same issues.
    Oklahoma University raided a craft show here not too long ago. The ladies were not using licensed products but were actually reproducing the logo and team name. It caused quite a stir at the craft fair!!
    And THAT is the difference. Making products that aren't licensed (re-creating the logo, etc) is very different than incorporating an already manufactured product into your quilt!!

  13. #13
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    I say make the items.. if you're concerned have them "purchase" the materials, then charge them to make the items.. that should be a way to slide around any problems.

  14. #14
    Community Manager PatriceJ's Avatar
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    i'm not a lawyer. this is purely opinion based on the what-my-tummy-says test.

    i don't claim it's at all logical, but seeing new [allegedly] handmade items for sale in an online store (or at a flea market) just "feels" different than seeing them spread out on a craft sale table. it creates a far more commercial image.

    at the table, i can look closely at the items and talk to the maker. i can get a better impression of whether they're truly handmade by that individual from legally purchased licensed fabric, or mass produced bootleg items being passed off as handmade (or handmade - but still mass produced - in sweatshops).

    if it was me, i'd keep the receipts to prove i purchased the fabric legally; make sure to be very clear that the items made are not licensed or endorsed by the team (or whatever); set a reasonable price; and stroll comfortably to the LQS to spend the profits.

  15. #15
    camillacamilla's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by PatriceJ
    i'm not a lawyer. this is purely opinion based on the what-my-tummy-says test.

    i don't claim it's at all logical, but seeing new [allegedly] handmade items for sale in an online store (or at a flea market) just "feels" different than seeing them spread out on a craft sale table. it creates a far more commercial image.

    at the table, i can look closely at the items and talk to the maker. i can get a better impression of whether they're truly handmade by that individual from legally purchased licensed fabric, or mass produced bootleg items being passed off as handmade (or handmade - but still mass produced - in sweatshops).

    if it was me, i'd keep the receipts to prove i purchased the fabric legally; make sure to be very clear that the items made are not licensed or endorsed by the team (or whatever); set a reasonable price; and stroll comfortably to the LQS to spend the profits.
    That is pretty much my opinion too.

  16. #16
    Super Member Favorite Fabrics's Avatar
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    You don't even have to be using the fabric to make anything to be the recipient of a cease and desist order!

    (I should preface this by saying that I manage a quilt shop, but came into the business via the craft show route. So I have both made items from fabric, as well as simply selling the fabric.)

    A few years back every fabric manufacturer had a "Red Hat" collection. (These were not licensed fabrics, just groups that included red hat motifs.) But none of the makers dared name their collections "Red Hat" aanything. Marcus did, for a time, call theirs "Red Hat" but then they renamed it "Hats and Heels". Other companies named their lines "Fifty Plus", "Ladies who Lunch", "Accessorize" and so on. My shop carried many of these lines.

    You can imagine my surprise when I received a cease-and-desist letter from one of the two Red Hat groups (I can't remember if it was the Red Hat Ladies or the Red Hat Society.) They were alleging trademark infringement because I had described the fabrics using the words "red hat". Now, seriously, what was I supposed to do? Say, "oh, we have this fabric, and it is purple, and it has hats on it and by the way they're red"?

    That was the year I learned about Trademark law. At the time, both of the two "red hat" groups had been issued trademarks, but only as a social group, not for any types of merchandise at all. So they really had no legal leg to stand on, so to speak. And I worried, but ignored the letter.

    Well, then I got a middle-of-the-night e-mail from the OTHER red hat group. Actually, from someone who claimed to be the founder of the group. Same thing, a cease-and-desist letter. But... if you do the math, she would have had to be fifty when she started the group, and this was many decades later, putting her somewhere in her mid-80's, at least. And I know that lots of people are bothered by insomnia at that age, but somehow I just can't imagine that they pass the hours at night by sending out scary e-mails full of "legalese"! So I worried but ignored this too.

    Now Northcott has reprinted a few of their red hat group, "Red Hot Mamas". So now, to head off any troubles, we include this disclaimer on our website: "Please note that we are not affiliated in any way with the Red Hat Society or the Red Hat Ladies, and this is not an officially licensed product from either of those associations."

    As to making items from licensed fabrics: I would definitely include a similar disclaimer, in the item description or on the hang tag if you're selling at craft shows/stores.

    There's some interesting reading available on this website: http://www.tabberone.com/ Warning: some of it is quite "acidic"!

    And, by the way, I don't harbor any ill feelings against either of the Red Hat groups.

  17. #17
    Member tabberone's Avatar
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    While the law allows you to use these fabrics to make and sell things, that does not mean the rights owner won't try to stop you. Sometimes they will even sue even though you are legally correct. They get away with these tactics because they know few small sewers will ever fight back. The cost of litigation is just too high.

    M&M/Mars, Disney, Major League Baseball, Sanrio (Hello Kitty), Debbie Mumm and United Media (Peanuts) have all backed off in federal court when challenged by us over the use of their fabrics.

    The "Red Hat" people would likely lose in federal court but no one wants to spend the money to make a point that doesn't need to be made. In my case it was a matter of defending my business and we represented ourselves.

    Trademark abuse has become the new American Legal Pastime. Just about anyone can play.

  18. #18
    Super Member Favorite Fabrics's Avatar
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    Kudos to you, Tabberone, for having the courage, and nerves of steel, to have stood your ground! Glad you chimed in on the forum, so that I could say that I have a ton of respect for your defending your rights.

    (I became aware of your website back in the days of the Red Hat furor.)

  19. #19

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    My sister and her SIL sell items with OU and OSU decals, designs and fabric. They had to purchase a special license to do so. We have been to craft shows when the merchandise was removed because the venders did not have such a license.

  20. #20
    Power Poster BellaBoo's Avatar
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    My neighbor is a lawyer that handles copyright issues from time to time. So happens he is here talking with hubby. He laughed when he read this post. Said go ahead make your quilts from purchased fabric and sell or do what you want with them. Don't make you own fabric or logos using the license names without permission.

  21. #21
    Super Member Teacup's Avatar
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    This was an interesting post. Thank you all for sharing your insight.

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