A while back we were looking into using sports team logos and cartoon characters on a line of products we were contemplating selling. At that time I did a lot of research to determine what needed to be done to secure the right to use those particular logos and characters. There was never any thought that we would just use the logos or characters without securing the proper permissions. We probably all know stories about people who have done just that and ended up being sued over it. The ability to sell merchandise with a sports team logo or popular cartoon character on it could be a real profit center for your business but, if you don’t have the proper permissions necessary to legally allow you to use the images, such use could also create many problems.
A good rule of thumb is to never embroider anything with an image if you aren’t sure permission has been secured and the use of the image is authorized. Having such an assurance is pretty easy when you’re picking the image to be embroidered. You will know that you have the necessary permissions because you, or someone from your business, will have secured them before the project started. So there generally aren’t any worries there.
Where the problem may occur is when a customer comes into your shop and asks for Bugs Bunny to be put on 50 shirts for her day care center. Of course you want to take the order. You certainly should take the order, if the customer can show you written proof that she has permission to use the requested image. If she can’t, you’re probably better off turning down her money, since it may bring a lot of headaches with it.
Most commercial embroiderers have probably, at sometime in their careers, unknowingly duplicated a copyrighted image at the request of the customer. Most of the time this is a minor offense and may not be discovered or, if discovered, won’t create any large scale problems. Occasionally, however, a corporation will decide to sue. Disney is one that comes to mind. In those cases, the potential profit you might make from fulfilling the order will be far outweighed by the cost of settling the suit.
In the end, it is better to be safe than sorry when it comes to embroidering licensed images for your customers. Taking a few moments to ask questions before you complete the order could save you a hours of time later on.
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