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Can I make a silhouette of a known gun and print it on t-shirts and sell?

New York, NY |

Would I be infringing any laws? Is a modified version ok? On the same token, how can I protect anything that I create? Thank you in advance.

Attorney Answers 4


  1. So, you want to put a Winchester Model 94, let's say, on a tee shirt and sell it. I used to be Chief Trademark Counsel for Winchester. I licensed such shirts. I would have sent you a CDL immediately upon discovering your shirt and had an essentially unlimited budget to sue you. I would estimate doing that (CDL) 300 times over 15 years and all 300 offenders stopped. Zero were willing to fight a legal battle. I haven't been there for 20 years, but I know who is and your odds have not increased much. You won't get shot, but the legal guns these firearm companies have are quick to pull the trigger. Be very careful, as this is a risky move you propose.

    Now, if it's an M1 carbine, an M-4, an AR15, or AK47 or other Government military gun, that is a different story.

    See an IP attorney for more guidance on this.

    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.


  2. It depends upon what "known gun" it is and/or how modified your "version". If you create something, I suggest you consult with an attorney asap to ensure your original IP is protected. Good luck!

    Ms. Brown may be reached at 718-878-6886 during regular business hours, or anytime by email at: marykatherinebrown@hotmail.com. All of Ms. Brown's responses to questions posted on AVVO are intended as general information based upon the facts stated in the question, and are provided for educational purposes of the public, not any specific individual, and her response to the question above is not legal advice and it does not create an attorney-client relationship. Ms. Brown is licensed to practice law in New York. If you would like to obtain specific legal advice about this issue, you must contact an attorney who is licensed to practice law in your state.


  3. The ornamental appearance of some guns are protected by their manufacturers under trade dress and/or design patent law. So, as to those, no, you may not lawfully put silhouettes of them on a shirt and then sell the shirt. Other guns, yes. How can you protect "anything" that you create? That depends on what you create. If a drawing, then under copyright law. If a brand of clothes, for example, then under trademark law. If a new gizmo, then under patent law. I suggest buying adn reading the book linked-to below. Good luck.

    The above response is general information ONLY and is not legal advice, does not form an attorney-client relationship, and should NOT be relied upon to take or refrain from taking any action. I am not your attorney. You should seek the advice of competent counsel before taking any action related to your inquiry.


  4. You have no respect for IP rights of others but you want us to advise you concerning how to protect your creations? Your proposal to use a silhouette of a known gun violates trademark and trade dress rights-it is blatantly illegal unless you obtain permission from the manufacturer of the gun. Your modified version might avoid this problem if the modifications are sufficiently significant as to avoid any confusion in the minds of consumers between your modified gun and the originals. But this is a dangerous path to travel--chances are you will get sued if you pursue this project,

    You need to retain legal counsel to develop comprehensive intellectual property law strategies for your business, including strategies for avoiding being sued for infringement and strategies for protecting and enforcing your IP rights. Frankly, it is obvious from your question that you need professional guidance in this area. Retain an experienced lawyer to advice you before you launch this project. Your investment in legal counsel will save you money in the long run.