I own a very unique classic car that I designed and built. The car was featured in magazines and on my build page on Facebook. An aftermarket company (that I never did any business with) used photos of my car on social media to promote their product (custom brakes), and advertise for them. The interesting thing is that they never asked my permission, nor do I have any of their products installed on my car (or any other cars, I have never used their product). The car is very distinct, custom body lines and paint job, and recognizable. I've spent a lot of money building this car, it doesn't seem right for a company to profit from my work.
If your car was in public when they took the photos of this piece of property, then the photographer (or their employer) is the owner of the photos and the copyrights in those photos and can used them however they'd like, including to promote their own business.
If YOUR photo(s) were used, then you do have a claim for copyright infringement of any infringed photos. In order for you to sue, your photo(s) must be registered for copyright.
Your unique car, as the subject of the photos, has no "publicity" rights. You have no rights as the owner/designer/builder of the car UNLESS your name as owner/designer/builder is used without your consent. If your name and nothing identifiable about you are used, you have no publicity rights claim.
To discuss a copyright infringement claim, see your own copyright litigator.
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It doesn't sound like there would be a violation of intellectual property rights unless there was more. It depends on the nature of you customization and what they said. Since it's public, even if it were the proper subject for a design patent, it's too late. Copyright only covers what could generally be considered "art." If done under the current copyright law, maybe the Oscar Mayer Wiener Wagon or I think there was a chicken place with chicken sculptures. Trademark only comes in if you were selling a recognized design. False advertising could occur if they said you use their parts. Right of publicity if they used your name or likeness. There was at least one publicity case involving race car driver identifiable by the marking on the car.
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Generally, it is possible for a three dimensional design to be protected by copyright.
In order to sue for copyright infringement in a U.S. District Court, based on U.S. work created today, one needs to obtain a copyright registration.
You should discuss with an intellectual property attorney in a private consultation.
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It's possible that in some cases you might be able to prove out some kind of unfair competition claim, but this might be a stretch here. An object does not have publicity and privacy rights like a person does. And if the photo was taken from a public place then there is really nothing that prevents them from using the photo.
If this is a serious concern for you, I suggest that you consult with a lawyer in private and discuss your objectives in more detail. You can start by calling around to several for a free phone consultation, get some insights then pick the best fit to work with.
DISCLAIMER: this is not intended to be specific legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. No attorney-client relationship is formed with the law firm of Natoli-Legal, LLC on the basis of this posting.
I think I disagree with my colleagues, based on what you described. From what you say, it appears your custom car is so unique it is a piece of art and as such would be protected by copyright, just as the Statue of Liberty at New York New York in Las Vegas is protected (and the artist won $3.5 million in a lawsuit from the USPO for inadvertently using it for a postage stamp). You need to have your art registered with the US Copyright office in order to perfect your rights (sue anyone for damages and attorney fees). Talk with an experienced copyright attorney. If you can't afford one, many law schools and charitable organizations offer free legal counsel. Don't let others make money off your hard work and creative expression. I wish you luck.
Peace be with you, and may love guide you.
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