Tattoos & Trademarks

I doubt that anyone would bother prosecuting, but if I were to get the Dale Earnhardt Legacy logo tattooed, would I be in violation of trademark laws? I’ve had Calvin on my shoulder for almost 10 years now, and Bill Watterson has yet to come knocking. I was just curious.

I belive that to be in violation of the copyright law you would have to then sell your skin that has been inked.

also, I do belive that trademark laws dont apply for interpertations of works of art (ie a tatto) but I could be wrong.

-x out

I would guess that it would be a copyright violation for a tattoo artist to profit by creating copies of other people’s work.

Well, Andy Warhol certainly made good use of the Campbell’s Soup logo and can image. Wonder if he was sued? That’s art, and lucritive at that. Not only that one print, but all of the prints,and prints of the prints, etc.

You might not be prosecuted for wearing the protected image, ( since as was mentioned above, you’re not likely to be selling your epidermis off your body), but who knows about the artist.

Trademark attorneys?


As long as your not profiting from the image or using it for a commercial purpose, it is legal. A week after Earnhardt died, I had a 3 tattooed on my shoulder.

I don’t think you can be prosecued for owning a copy of a trademarked image, just for selling or trading under it without permission.

So any violation of trademark would be on the part of the tatoo artist, not the “tatooee”. Unless, of course, they were paying the trademark owner some kind of royalty.


While slightly over generalizing, the legislative purpose of protecting trademarks is (1) to enable consumers to identify the origin or source of a product or service, and/or (2) protect the time and investment that companies have put in to developing their good brand name.

So, you wont be prosecuted for having a tattoo of a trademark on your body unless or until Calvin Klein starts putting human clones (i.e., goods) or prostitutes (i.e., services) on the market. When that happens you better make sure that you don’t sell your body to any old john who may be mislead into believing they are getting a real Calvin Klein blowjob.


  1. I’m a straight guy
  2. Blowjob? What does that have to do with anything? A new way of applying ink? If so, why aren’t more guys getting tats?
  3. I was referring to Calvin, as in Hobbes’ friend, not Klein.

Note that Watterson has chosen not to make a stink over the “Calving peeing” stickers that people insist on putting on their pickup trucks.

I don’t know much about trademark or copyright law, but I’m guessing that, under some imaginable circumstances, a tattoo of a trademarked image could create liability under the theory of trademark dilution. For example, let us suppose that the image of Mickey Mouse stands for quality children’s entertainment. Now suppose that porn stars have Mickey Mouse tattoos proximate to their genitalia. I could imagine Disney suing to prevent videos of these porn stars in action from being disseminated – even if the videos are free and the porn stars aren’t profiting from the distribution of the trademarked image.

Sorry Casey1505 - I didn’t mean to imply anything untoward about you!!

My point was that you won’t infringe a trademark unless you are using it in relation to some particular goods or services. A blow-job is just an example of a service that ‘sprang to mind’ to use in my example. In my defense I want to admit that I was watching a Kylie Minogue video at the time. hehehe

I know Chuck Jones’ daughter, and she tells a story about a concert at the Greek Theater one night that her dad, mom, husband and she attended. The man in fron of them recognized her dad and was so excited to meet him. At his wife’s urging, he lifted his shirt to reveal a giant tattoo of one of Chuck’s cartoon characters on his back.

Jones was amused, and even signed the work, and the man said that he was going in the next day to have the “autograph” tattooed onto the piece.

His daughter says that he joked later that he hadn’t seen any royalty checks from a tattoo parlor!