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Can I change the shape, colors, and message of the Disney logo without getting into trouble?

Wichita, KS |

For a t-shirt design for my university, I'd like to redesign the old Disney logo with the blue lines so that it reflects a historic building on our property. I would change the colors and shape of the building, but stick with the general outline of the Disney logo - the bars and I may try to find a similar font (not the same one). Would this infringe on any copyright laws?

Attorney Answers 6


  1. Best answer

    In terms of trademark law, you may be able to escape trademark infringement if the changes are drastic enough. You would need an intellectual property attorney to look over the your mark and Disney's mark to determine if the differences are enough not to confuse the public.

    In terms of copyright law, you would be infringing. Using another's work and making changes would be creating a derivative work, which you would need a license for this to not be infringing.

    I would highly recommend against doing this.

    Answering of your question is merely general advice and does not constitute legal advice. None of the statements or implications made by this answer creates an attorney-client relationship with the attorney answering the question. The statements made in this answer are not to be solely relied upon and you should meet with a competent attorney to discuss any concerns you may have regarding this answer.


  2. I agree with my colleague, but with the caveat that I would not conclude that it is copyright infringement without the benefit of a proper analysis because you are free to be inspired by another's work. The issue becomes whether what you create is merely a derivative of that work and hence infringing or if we are left with a work that would not be substantially similar under a CR analysis.

    You cannot, of course, get a specific opinion on this forum so you should consult an IP lawyer in private. Most of us here, including myself, offer a free phone consult.

    Best regards,
    Frank
    Natoli-Lapin, LLC
    (see Disclaimer)

    The law firm of Natoli-Lapin, LLC (Home of Lantern Legal Services) offers our flat-rate legal services in the areas of business law and intellectual property to entrepreneurs, small-to-medium size businesses, independent inventors and artists across the nation and abroad. Feel free to call for a free phone consultation; your inquiries are always welcome: CONTACT: 866-871-8655 Support@LanternLegal.com DISCLAIMER: this is not intended to be specific legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. No attorney-client relationship is formed on the basis of this posting.


  3. Unlikely, unless you do it with assistance of an IP attorney who knows copyright and trademark law.

    There is a right of trademark infringement under 15 USC 1114, unfair competition under 15 USC 1125, and copyright infringement under 17 USC 501. See http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text to find these laws and read them.

    Portraying your university building as the Magic Kingdom castle is legally risky. You say you will do this "for your University". Are you saying the University is requesting you to copy the Disney logo? My guess is you are doing this for yourself to sell for a profit that you don't plan to share with the University. If it really is for the University, then see the University legal department which likely has someone who understands trademark and copyright law. Indeed, if the University has a law school, that is perhaps where you should go for free advice, so you can someone to look at your proposed design and do a comparative copyright review.

    I am not your lawyer and you are not my client. Free advice here is without recourse and any reliance thereupon is at your sole risk. This is done without compensation as a free public service. I am licensed in IL, MO, TX and I am a Reg. Pat. Atty. so advice in any other jurisdiction is strictly general advice and should be confirmed with an attorney licensed in that jurisdiction.


  4. This is asking for trouble. The changes that you are making to the Disney logo are problem insufficient to avoid consumer confusion---consumers are likely to think that your T-shirt design is associated with Disney. The essence of trademark law is to avoid such consumer confusion---which you would be creating.

    It is also possible that you would be violating copyright law unless the changes that you make are "transformative" (i.e., create a completely original drawing or logo). It sounds to me that your design would constitute a derivative work which would violate copyright law.

    You are connected a university, either as student, professor, administrator or client. I can tell by this question that you are in rather desperate need to educate yourself about the basics of intellectual property law. Either take a course on the subject at the university or go to Amazon.com and read a few books about copyright, trademark, patent, trade dress and trade secret law.


  5. I do not disagree with what has been stated previously by my colleagues, however, I would also like to caution you in regard to making a shirt that references your university. Being from Kansas, I am sure you have heard of the University of Kansas v. Joe College case. It is not only the Disney logo you need to worry about, but your university's trademark as well.

    This response is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. Mr. Jefferson is licensed to practice in Kansas. Seek legal advice from an attorney in your state. Please be advised that by answering this question, an attorney-client relationship has not been established.


  6. Yes.

    This is not a legal advice or solicitation, and does not create an attorney-client relationship. Consult with an attorney. I work for Cardinal Risk Mangement and Cardinal Intellectual Property, IP service companies, but not law firms. I also am the president of Vepachedu Educational Foundation Inc., which is a non profit educational foundation. I also write cultural and scientific compliations for the foundation. I also teach at Northwestern university as a guest lecturer. I also provide some pro-bono guidance on immigration and other issues through Indian American Bar Association. I also have a contract with Cardinal Law Group, a law firm, for IP projects. All this information is on my profile at Avvo and also at Linkedin. Any views/opinions expressed in any context are my personal views in individual capacity only, and do not represent the views and opinions of any firm, client, or anyone else, and is not sponsored or endorsed by them in any way.

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