The mascot of my clothing brand (up and coming) is a Teddy Bear, and lately I've been using the head in patterns but I was told it looks like Mickey Mouse, what do I do? Can I use it or not if it resembles Mickey. Thank you.
You've got consumer feedback that your trademark (and that's what it is) is similar enough to that famous mouse, in fact their most famous symbol, owned by Disney, that famous and notoriously litigious company.
Since the essence of trademark infringement is "likelihood of confusion," and you've already experienced evidence of ACTUAL, not just LIKELY, consumer confusion, that should set off loud warning bells and send you running to your own trademark counsel.
Note also that your bear/mouse images may also infringe Disney's copyright rights based on their decades-old and huge collection of mouse images.
See your own IP lawyer ASAP to make sure you've got a viable and available trademark. it doesn't sound as if the one you're using is available because on this evidence of confusion with an extremely aggressive competitor.
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You probably should run the graphics past a lawyer familiar with both trademark and copyright law. It certainly can't be answered on Avvo.
Generally, copyright includes at least the exclusive right to reproduce a copyrighted work in copies and to prepare derivative works based on the copyrighted work, and if you have reproduced Mickey Mouse or something that resembles Mickey Mouse, you may be liable for copyright infringement; you should discuss with an intellectual property attorney in a private consultation.
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You face both copyright and trademark issues. Google "Trademark" and "Likelihood of confusion" for understanding of Trademark infringement factors. Google "copyright" and "substantial similarity" for copyright infringement factors.
As for a Teddy Bear silhouette being substantially similar to Mickey, most teddy bears I have seen are not close to Mickey's silhouette. But, Disney is very protective and could fight you regardless of my opinion.
Peace be with you, and may love guide you.
Because you intend to use the mark commercially in selling a brand of clothing, it may be advisable for you to tweek your design away from looking like Mickey Mouse before totally launching your brand. Although, I have not have direct experience with Disney objecting to use of their copyrights and trademarks in Disney characters, I was warned 20 years ago "don't mess with the mouse." I always tell my clients, why buy a potential lawsuit? From a practical standpoint, unless you make a lot of money, Disney is not likely to come after you. On the other hand, if Disney perceives your design to be Mickey Mouse, there is the possibility that their attorneys will send you a "Cease and Desist" letter, prior to the possibility of them suing you for infringement. One must always understand that for the most part, infringement issues are generally pursued by copyright or trademarks rights holders only if you are making money or if the public perceives your product or service to be owned by or endorsed by the rights holder (in your scenario, Disney). You may have protection under the transformative use law which is a relatively new part of the copyright fair use doctrine and continues to be an evolving area of copyright law. Go ahead and look up the actual copyright law as stated in the Supreme Court decision of Campbell v. Acuff-Rose 510 U.S. 569. (1994). Even if as a lay person you may not understand everything in the decision, it will give you some useful perspective on how courts analyze copyright infringement issues. Best wishes with your venture.
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