Designed a Seahawk print to use on products to sell in my on line store. Was told it can't be used due to Copyright Infringement

Asked 3 months ago - Tacoma, WA

I designed a Seattle Seahawk Superbowl fan appreciation logo. The logo says, "Seattle Seahawks" in a font that has not been used before and the photo is of the Seahawk that Seattle uses as their mascot. My company name is on the Seahawk and I omitted a couple of marks on the hawk. I thought this was legal to do? I was told it wasn't and all of my finished products now, cannot be sold. Can someone give me an example of how I could turn this into a legal piece of memorabilia. What do I need to do when designing something like this that will not cause a copyright infringement issue? I see the same Seahawk logo on all sorts of souvenirs and clothing. What are the other companies doing different then me that makes their finished product acceptable?

Attorney answers (6)

  1. John E. Whitaker

    Contributor Level 16

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    Answered . You've asked a ton of questions. Here's the general idea: You cannot use the Seattle Seahawks logo without a license from the NFL. That's the bottom line. Minor changes to the logo don't do anything. If someone can recognize it as the Seahawks logo, then you are probably infringing.
    If you see the use of the Seahawks logo on something else, then they are either paying for a license or they are infringing and just haven't gotten caught yet.
    Good luck.

    Answers and information provided here does not create an attorney/client relationship.
  2. Daniel Nathan Ballard

    Contributor Level 20

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    Best Answer
    chosen by asker

    Answered . A seahawk is a bird. Quite a number of companies, and schools, use a drawing of a seahawk to name their company or brand their product [visit the link below]. The Seattle Seahawks do not have the exclusive right to use a seahawk image.

    But no one, including you, can lawfully use the same, or a confusing similar, drawing as the one the Seattle Seahawks uses to brand its football team. That would be copyright and trademark infringement.

    You clearly want to sell Seattle Seahawks souvenirs. The only way to do so lawfully is with a license from NFL Properties -- which it will not grant.

    How much of the drawing do you have to change to put you over on the lawful side? Enough so that a football fan would not associate your products displaying that logo with the Seattle Seahawks' logo. Which, of course, does away with your incentive to sell those products.

    The above response is general information ONLY and is not legal advice, does not form an attorney-client... more
  3. Paul Karl Siepmann

    Pro

    Contributor Level 18

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    Answered . You need a license, most likely from NFL Properties. The other companies have either obtained a license, or just haven't been caught yet. You can face serious trademark infringement penalties for what you are trying to do.

    I am not your attorney and any posts/messages or responses to posts/messages can not establish an attorney-client... more
  4. Maurice N Ross

    Pro

    Contributor Level 20

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    Answered . What you did is blatantly, willfully illegal. No offense, but in what planet are you living in which you could think this could be legal? You obviously need to educate yourself on the basics of copyright and trademark law. The only way you could legally sell memorabilia of this kind is by obtaining a license from the NFL, which handles licensing and administration of team logos and trademarks.

    You have blatantly, willfully, and inexcusably violated copyright and trademark law. It is irrelevant that you change the font. The Seahawk is a logo and design protected by copyright law, and you created a derivative work by changing the font and making your own version of the logo. It is illegal to create such a derivative work without approval of the copyright owner. Further the Seattle Seahawk logo and brand is used as the trademark for sale of official merchandise such as official, authentic, branded clothing and souvenirs of the type you want to sell. The products you made are fraudulent and counterfeit. You scheme effectively constitutes illegal counterfeiting for which you could face criminal and civil prosecution. In fact, if i were in your shoes at this point, my next move would be to retain criminal defense counsel---because you have now admitted on this publicly available web-site that you are intentionally engaging in a form of counterfeiting.

    It is no excuse that you are aware of other companies who are violating the law in the same way. Copyright and trademark infringement is much too common---but it is never legal. You cannot excuse your misconduct merely because others are also engaging in the same misconduct. Trust me about this---the companies who engage in this conduct eventually find themselves facing criminal and civil sanctions. You cannot sell your products without a license, and if you do so you risk severe adverse consequences. Get a lawyer now because otherwise you risk major trouble.

  5. Bruce E. Burdick

    Pro

    Contributor Level 20

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    Answered . What you can do make this legal is to burn your inventory and not sell a single one. The other products, unlike you, are officially licensed or they are illega land NOT acceptable. The NFL cannot stop all infringers because there are just too many, but the can stop or sue any illegal infringer they choose. Perhaps you.

    I am not your lawyer and you are not my client. Free advice here is without recourse and any reliance thereupon is... more
  6. Frank W Young

    Contributor Level 10

    Answered . So many Seattle Seahawks questions, so little time. The other attorneys have provided wonderful advice,

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