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If I were to recreate a water bottle that I saw in a movie by making it an actual product and reselling it would that be legal?

Los Angeles, CA |

It was an animation movie.
It would not be using an image, I would just be making a water bottle in the same color scheme that would have the same words/font as the one that I saw in the movie. The words do reference the movie but the exact words themselves are very generic, and I feel like it would be difficult for someone to own the rights to them.

Attorney Answers 6

Posted

This would be a risky proposition. I understand that the words are very generic, and that might help your situation somewhat, but the movie-owner could sue you for copyright infringement, and during the lawsuit you would have to admit that 1) you got the idea from the movie; 2) you patterned your product's color scheme after the product you saw in the movie; and 3) you use the same words on your bottle that are used in the movie's bottle. The facts here scream out "copy", and that won't help you if the movie-owner decides to come after you.
On the other hand, if you approach the movie-owner, you may get a cheap license to make and sell the water bottle - having your bottle out there potentially helps market the movie, so the movie-maker may be happy to have you market and sell it.

(949) 721-6380 - Of course there's more to it! Plus, we don't have an attorney-client relationship. This brief comment is for information only, and must not be relied upon as legal advice.

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4 lawyers agree

Posted

As my colleague noted, copying something from a movie may be a risk proposition. You should consult with an entertainment or intellectual property attorney.

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1 lawyer agrees

Posted

Your question smacks of copying an item from somewhere. That it was in an animated movie does not mean lacking in copyright. Using words from the movie further increases the likelihood that you may not be adding enough creativity to even claim such. As this cases involve more than asked in a few lines, consult an intellectual property lawyer to assure that you are not 'buying a lawsuit.'

This is not a legal advice as I do not have an attorney-client privilege with you. You should retain a lawyer before acting on any generally available advice.

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2 lawyers agree

Posted

If the water bottle as used or shown furthered the plot of the movie in some meaningful way then I can, kinda sorta, envision a claim by the movie producer against you if you made and sold the same water bottle. But if the water bottle was simply a prop -- that is, something without any significance to the plot of the movie -- then, contrary to my colleagues, I see NO colorable claim against anyone for selling an identical-appearing water bottle [including if it displays words that "reference" the movie (whatever that means)]. Only your own intellectual property attorney can provide you with actionable advice. Good luck.

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.

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2 lawyers agree

Posted

As you can see, experienced IP lawyers will disagree on this. I come down on the side with Daniel Ballard. A few words cannot be copyright, because--as the Copyright Office sees it--there is too little creative input. And I doubt the words on the bottle are part of the script sent in to register. Unless…those words are actually the name of the movie, which is likely trademark-registered. So I think there is no valid claim of infringement. And yet I am also going to recommend you seek a license anyway. It is a bit risky, in that it alerts the producer to your plan. So, finally, I think you need a consult with an IP lawyer where you can state more of the facts than you can here, and get a more helpful opinion.

Licensed in Maryland with offices in Maryland and Oregon. Information here is general, does not create a lawyer-client relationship, and is not a substitute for consulting with an experienced attorney on the specifics of your situation.

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1 lawyer agrees

Posted

I come down more on the side of Glen Nuttall that your copying of the bottle design, color and words would involve a large risk of copyright infringement. The bottle in the animation was a unique and original work of authoriship fixed in a tangible medium of expression. Your copying of that bottle and distributing those "copies" would invite a sizable risk of litigation, and the outcome could be bad for you. I agree with the advice that you should try to obtain the copyright holder's written consent for your proposed usage.

No attorney client relationship is created with this post and no legal advice has been rendered. This is for general informational purposes only and does not apply to any specific set of facts which have been reviewed by me. The information contained in this response has not been verified and is not necessarily accurate or reliable, or applicable to any particular jurisdiction. Always hire a licensed attorney to represent your legal interests.

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3 comments

Daniel Nathan Ballard

Daniel Nathan Ballard

Posted

Infringement of what? The copyright in the movie? Or the copyright in one or more of the drawings of the bottle that are shown in the movie? Those copyrights, I submit, are the only ones that can exist relative to the bottle [and which could, therefore, be potentially infringed]. As for the first copyright, as I noted, IF the bottle played some substantial part in the movie then, ok, maybe recreating the bottle in the real world infringes the copyright in the movie. But if not then why would recreating the bottle in the real world infringe the copyright in the 90 minute or so movie? Just because the bottle appears for a time in the movie? Or do you believe that the bottle, by virtue of being in the movie, is protected by its own, specific copyright [like some fictional characters that appear in movies]? I don't think it's legally supportable to assert that the bottle is protected by its own copyright simply because it's shown in the movie. As for the second type of copyright, I concede that copyright attaches not only to each of the drawings of the bottle that, cumulatively, form that part of the animated movie in which the bottle appears but also to those bottle drawings that did not make it into the movie. But no one who views the movie has access -- as that word is used in copyright law -- to any of those particular drawings. What a movie viewer accesses is the cumulative whole of the drawings that did make into the movie. Absent access to a work [here, one or more of the particular drawings of the bottle that made it into the movie] there can be no infringement of the copyright in that work. Yes, drawings of the bottle are sufficiently creative and are fixed but (1) they're fixed as one [assumingly neglible] element within a very large work such that reproducing that one element is not an infringement of that large work and (2) the questioner never had access to any particular drawings of the bottle so cannot, as a matter of law, infringe any one of those particular drawings. Assuming the bottle plays no significant part in the movie then I see no copyright claim by making a real world copy of that bottle.

David M. Slater

David M. Slater

Posted

I think I have to disagree with you, Daniel. The copyright is presumably in the movie. The drawing of the bottle, its design, colors, and words, are a unique work of original authorship. If it is copied without permission, that is a copyright violation. It is not protected by Fair Use. And the fact that the bottle is only a portion of the overall movie is not a distinction, in my opinion, that has legal significance. Nor does the importance or purpose of the bottle in the movie have any legal effect. I think if you copy it, and distribute those "copies", you have a copyright violation.

Daniel Nathan Ballard

Daniel Nathan Ballard

Posted

Well, alright. Differences in view is what makes our jobs intellectually interesting. Good exchange, thank you.

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