How far could I go in using the Frito Bandito for my own devices?

Re the Frito Bandito. Commercial here.

Since they mothballed him 40 years ago is there any public domain access to the Frito Bandito if I wanted to use the image for ironic hipster T-Shirts and similar annoying uses, or does Frito lay still have exclusive domain over him at this point?

Frito-Lay Inc. is likely to want to protect their interest in the trademark FRITO, and to do that will also sue based on their copyright interest in the drawn character. You are probably not as well prepared to pay lawyers as they are.

I used to have a Frito Bandito pencil eraser.

I thought it was important to add.

It’s a trademark, not a copyright. It can last forever, but Frito-Lay has to keep it active.

According to TESS, the trademark has expired. However, “Frito” is still active. It’s possible you can use the image, but you certainly can’t use the word “Frito” without getting in trouble.

The trademark may have expired by now, but the copyright on the image will not have. That’s two separate points of intellectual property law, only one of which has to still be valid for you to get into some serious trouble if you try to use it yourself.

There used to be a concept called “fair use” in US copyright law, which allowed for parodies to exist. It might well be a thing of the past, though no real test case has come up against it.

On edit: Just putting the Frito Bandito on a T-shirt would be infringing, ironic use or no. I imagine you’d have to parody it directly or put it in a obviously satirical/parody situation.

Just make it “Art.”

Me too! I remember those were cool as hell.

I doubt hardly anyone would recognize the Frito Bandito unless you called him that on the T-shirt. I was surprised to read that Frito only used that character from 67-71. It seemed like he was a big part of my childhood. Funny how our memories play tricks.

Just a WAG, but I think you’d be alright if you changed up the character just a little. Maybe use a different color hat. I’d be very surprised if anyone made the connection between the Frito character and your T-shirts. 40 years is a long, long time. I remembered the name, but not the drawing until I looked at the wiki article.

Me three. God I’m so old!

I also loved my Frito Bandito eraser, there was also a WC Frito eraser

You could make a Fritto Banditto T-Shirt and MAYBE you’d get away with that, maybe not.

I can still sing the song, 40 years after they stopped using him. (I was 6-7 years old then):

*Aye, yii, yii, yiiii
I am dee Frito Bandito.

I like Frito’s Corn Chips
I love them, I do
I want Frito’s corn chips
I’ll take them, from you.*

I have the commercial link at the top if you want to sing along.

Aye, yii, yii, yiiii
I am dee Frito Bandito.

Give me Frito’s Corn Chips
And I’ll be your friend.
The Frito Bandito
You must not offend!*

Over here, Spiderman T-shirts are hot sellers among the locals. Since it’s not spelled Spider-Man as is proper, I guess they get away with it. However, as a publicity stunt, a cooking-gas company dressed all of its deliverymen as Spider-Man one time, and I kid you not, Marvel Comics clamped down hard.

Before the Bandito, there was The Frito Kid. I have fond Disneyland memories of waiting for the bag of chips to slide down the chute at the Casa de Fritos.