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Can you use another companies logo on your marketing materials if you own the product?

Hyannis, MA |

I'm a freelance designer and one of my clients rents boats and jet-ski's, that he owns, to the public as a summer rental business. He was wondering if he could use the "Whaler" logo on his marketing materials due to the fact that his Whaler boats are the hot ticket for renters. The marketing material I am designing for him right now are rack cards that would be distributed in chambers and left at visitors centers, not sold to the public, handed out freely.

Attorney Answers 4

  1. While your client will be distributing these promotional materials at no charge, he is using them to offer his commercial services. The best course of action would be to get the manufacturer's permission for the use of their logo, alternatively, he can merely name the brand of boats he is renting out, thus avoiding potential consumer confusion as to which company is offering the rentals.

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  2. The trademark is actually "Boston Whaler" and is used and owned by Boston Whaler, Inc. which, in turn, is owned by Brunswick Corporation [the largest marine manufacturer in the world]. The person who wants to use the "Boston Whaler" logo should contact Boston Whaler, Inc. because, as a manufacturer, it already has in place a system that permits its dealers [and likely others] to use its trademarks to advertise its marine products at the retail level. Which means it has in place a system to monitor the marketplace to determine when its trademarks are NOT properly being used at the retail level. If for some reason the company does not permit the rental company to use the "Boston Whaler" logo in its advertising material then, as my colleague notes, the company should consider simply usind the "Boston Whaler" name. All of this should be done by a trademark attorney.

    The above 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.

  3. Hi, you have already received some very good advice which I hope you will heed. It does not matter that the materials are left for free. You are using the Trademark of another in the furtherance of business. I am sure that a company such as Boston Whaler already has a mechanism in place for dealing with these types of requests. Your client should seek permission and legal counsel.

  4. The safe course is to not use the logo and to just say something like "We offer for rent a variety of boats, including high quality BOSTON WHALER boats." Unlikely Brunswick is going to object to being called high quality and it is nominative use [commonly called "trademark fair use"] anyway if they were to question the use. Just make sure you do, in fact, have what you say you have and offer what you say you offer. You don't need the logo, customers know what a BOSTON WHALER is without seeing the logo.

    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.