Skip to main content

Is it against copyright law for me to create my own unique artwork containing a quote from a well known children's book?

Mccomb, MS |

i actually created a print with my own artwork to match a friend's nursery as a gift to her. the print quotes dr. seuss "oh, the places you'll go!" my friend shared pictures of her nursery on a site: http://projectnursery.com/projects/grahams-bright-and-modern-nursery/ and since, i have received many requests from others to create seuss art for them. am i doing anything wrong in creating & possibly selling my own creations of prints that happen to quote lines from popular children's books?

Attorney Answers 5

Posted

The Dr. Seuss people are notoriously aggressive in enforcing their intellectual property rights. Thus, you are at risk of a law suit for trademark infringement and state law unfair competition unless you get a license from them to use the quote---which is a book title and arguably constitutes a trademark.

Mark as helpful

4 lawyers agree

Posted

The particular expression you cite cannot be copyrighted, but it may be trademarked, although it is too generic and I doubt there is a trademark on it. Nevertheless you should have an attorney check it out.
The artwork is your creation therefore you are the author and have the copyright. The short phrases are in themselves too short and too generic to be protectable under copyright.
Future phrases need to be reviewed individually by a TM attorney.
It is possible the combination of phrases an artwork to infringe Dr Seuss copyright, thus a Copyright attorney should look at the project before you put it into the stream of commerce.

USPTO Registered Patent Attorney, Master of Intellectual Property law, MBA I am neither your attorney, nor my answers or comments in AVVO.com create an attorney-client relationship with you. You may accept or disregard my free advice in AVVO.com at your own risk. I am a Patent Attorney, admitted to the USPTO and to the Florida Bar.

Mark as helpful

1 found this helpful

5 lawyers agree

1 comment

Molly Cristin Hansen

Molly Cristin Hansen

Posted

Asker, For future reference, please note that this is a public website, and postings should be done on an anonymous and more generic basis. Anything posted here can be discovered by anyone, including Dr. Seuss Enterprises.

Posted

I agree with Attorney Golab that a short phrase is not copyrightable and likely not protected under trademark law. So a one-off piece of artwork that displays a quote from a Dr. Seuss book can likely be sold lawfully. But it would NOT be lawful to create an entire business that creates "seuss art" and then sells that art. That is unlawful under, at least, unfair competition law.

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.

Mark as helpful

1 found this helpful

5 lawyers agree

Posted

Please note that the phrase you are using is not just a quote from a book, it is also a book title. And, while you might not get into trouble making one lone artwork using that quote, Dr. Seuss Enterprises actively uses and licenses that quote beyond just the title of the book.

In addition, American Seating Company successfully registered the phrase back in 1998 for use in IC Class 020 (Furniture and Articles Not Otherwise Covered). So, there are at least two companies who could take issue with you using that particular phase.

I would suggest that before you go into business, you consult with an intellectual property attorney in your area who can review any phrases that you are planning to use and discuss any associated risks with you in the confidence of an attorney/client meeting.

Any answer or other information posted above is general in nature and is not intended, nor should it be construed, as legal advice. This posting does not create an attorney-client relationship between you and the posting attorney, and you are urged to engage a qualified attorney who is licensed to practice in the relevant jurisdiction.

Mark as helpful

1 found this helpful

5 lawyers agree

1 comment

Bruce E. Burdick

Bruce E. Burdick

Posted

See why you need an attorney, for just that sort of clearance work that Attorney Hansen generously gave you. And you need it on each phrase and then need to have a review of the entire assembly, particularly if it focuses just on Dr. Suess.

Posted

There it is. Our weekly "can I use quotes". Best to go to the source and get licensed . Anything less is risky. Dr. Suess is one franchise that is aggressively protected. This is a medium to high risk business model you propose, so get some IP attorney help.

So far, this is free to you. Until you pay a fee, I am not your lawyer and you are not my client, so you take any free advice at your sole risk. I am licensed in IL, MO, TX and am a Reg. Pat. Atty. so advice in any other jurisdiction is general advice and should be confirmed with an attorney licensed in that jurisdiction.

Mark as helpful

1 lawyer agrees