How did 'Logorama' get away with using logos?

The Oscar-winning animation short is a movie made of nothing but corporate logos and mascots, many of them in an unflattering light (McDonalds can’t be happy). Why haven’t they been sued? I believe that logos are in a quasi-public domain but mascots certainly aren’t. Are they protected somehow because the movie is considered fair-use as a piece of art?

Satire and parody are also protected.

So is art.

The most famous example of this is Andy Warhol’s Cambell’s Soup can

It is clear that Warhol is not trying to use or promote Cambells brand in anyway. He is using the soup can to make a statement. It could have been ANY brand name or ANY product. He just chose to use Campbells to make that statement.

Had Warhol been trying to use Cambells solely to sell his art he would have failed and the same picture would have been infringement.

See it’s not always what the picture is, often it’s what it represents and if you can convince a judge that is the correct interpretation :slight_smile:

Trademarks per se are not protected in the same way copyrighted material is: a trademark prevents others from using the mark to identify a product or company in business, not from making copies of the mark itself.

Yeah, just like when you use the trademarked name in a report or something. You basically include a disclaimer saying that you are not trying to imply that your work was sponsored by the company. You know, those lines that say “McDonalds and the Golden Arches are a trademark of McDonald’s corporation in [blah blah]. This product is not in any way affiliated with McDonald’s corporation.”

I don’t see any on their website, but man is that a poorly designed website.

The main legal question in trademark cases is will this confuse a consumer into thinking that this product comes from the trademarked company.

Thus if they are in widely different businesses, they might both use the same name. For example, locally there is a McDonalds plumbing supply, a McDonalds liquor store, etc. But these do not infring on McDonalds trademarks, because they are obviously different businesses. But try to open a fast food restaurant named McDonalds, even if that’s your name, and you will be promptly sued by McDonalds Corp., and will lose.

Long ago I had a friend whose last name was Duncan. We were passing a Dunkin’ Donuts once, and I noticed a vacant storefront across the street. We wondered if he could open a store called Duncan Donuts there.

Depends on how much you want to spend in legal fees.

In the NYC area there’s a chain of restaurants called “Kennedy Fried Chicken.” They have a red and white color theme and sometimes also simply go by “KFC.” The other KFC chain has tried to stop them, but apparently haven’t been successful.

So, what’s the story with using identifiable brand name products in movies and TV shows?

I’m not talking about product placement here, where the company and the movie producers get together and work out a quid pro quo. I’m talking about using a product without the company’s authorization.

The reason i ask is that, some years back, i was having a conversation at a party with a guy who insisted that, if i placed a Coca Cola can in a (hypothetical) movie i was making without the company’s authorization, the company could sue me to have it removed. This struck me as unlikely, because while i’m not a lawyer (and definitely not an IP lawyer), i am aware of the general difference between trademark and copyright. Still, the guy i was talking to WAS a lawyer, so i tended to defer to his argument, even though i was dubious about it.

Several years ago we had a little store here in town called “The Old Home Depot”. It had been here for years. It was housed in an old freight depot and specialized in materials for restoring older homes. Well, you can guess what happened when a certain orange-logoed home improvement chain came to town.

There’s no infringement in using it. Usually, producers prefer to get an official product placement, which means that Coke would pay them for their using Coke in a shot. But you don’t need anyone’s permission to use a trademarked product.

The issue is confused by the fact that before product placement, Hollywood (and TV) used generic brands. This was mostly to avoid advertising the brand, not to avoid legal action (early TV shows were especially sensitive to advertisers not wanting to see other advertiser’s products in TV shows).

The trademark owners are perfectly happy to get the exposure. Sometimes they grumble if the product is shown in a bad light, but there is no need to get permission, since trademarks only apply to products that may be confused.

A perfect example is seen in car advertising. They show their own car in a positive light, while comparing it to other brands, by name.

They could certainly sue you. (Anybody can sue anybody for anything.) But they would have a very hard time winning such a lawsuit. In fact, Coca Cola would not even bother, unless your whole movie was an attack on Coke.

Otherwise, to a business, just like a public figure, the old saying applies: even bad publicity is better than NO publicity.
Also, not far from my house is a store that has been around since the 1960’s, selling books – the Amazon Bookstore Collective. Then some internet business came along, selling books online, using the Amazon name. They argued about this for a while. Finally, the online Amazon paid them a bunch of money for the right to use the Amazon name online. Probably because they worried about a possible court case; the collective was in a similar business (selling books), the name was trademarked, and they had been using it for 30-40 years before. All that might have been effective in a court case, so it was cheaper for Amazon to just pay out money to settle this outside of court.

Even then, they’re not likely to win. Hell, years ago the Fugs
recorded the song “Coca Cola Douche,” and Coke just let that slide.

One of the issues that makes trademark protection so litigious is the “defend it or lose it” provision in the law. If I see any possible infringement to my trademarks, I must attempt to defend it or risk losing the trademark permanently. IIRC, this was the situation in a daycare in Florida that had painted Disney characters on their walls. Now Disney has one license it has ever given (University of Oregon for Donald Duck in the 1930’s) and so they told the daycare to remove the pictures. This of course created a lot of bad press for Disney but with the way the law is, the could have potentially lost their trademarks in almost the entire Disney franchise if they ignored it.

No, they were being jerks.

They could just as easily have asked the day care center to sign a statement agreeing that these were Disney trademarks, and pay $1 per year for them. That would have given them legal reinforcement for their trademarks, without the bad press.

Like the guy with the Disney tattoos did. I can’t find the interview where I read this, but he says he had about 30 tattoos, and Disney contacted him, and he licensed his tattoos from them, and now Disney sends him official artwork, as his goal is to have every Disney character.

Interestingly, Disney was sued a few years back by the Hell’s Angels Motorcycle Club for trademark dilution. :smiley:

Where does satire and parody step over into infringement? Could I publish a book where Harry Potter is a homicidal maniac who drowns kittens?

Harry Potter (both the name and the character) is trademarked, and J.K. Rowling/Warner Bros. would be able to make a case that your book would be confusing to the public and would reflect badly on them – people might think it was an official Harry Potter book. You’d be tarnishing and diluting the Harry Potter trademark. I’m no expert on this sort of thing, but I’d be pretty sure Rowling/WB would win the lawsuit against you. I’m not sure you’d even be able to mount a parody defense with a book like you described, as it doesn’t sound like it would be making any real statement about the original series.

You’d probably be fine if you wrote a book about an evil man who just happened to be named Harry Potter, as long as the title and cover of the book wouldn’t lead people to believe that it had anything to do with the more famous fictional character. Kitten Killer would be okay, but Harry Potter and the Mysterious Cat probably wouldn’t. With a parody of Rowling’s Harry Potter series, you’d be better off making it very clear that it is a parody and not a licensed tie-in. Note that the Barry Trotter parody series does not use the trademarked Harry Potter name.