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Can I use characters, images and such on jewelry and crafts to sell them?

Oklahoma City, OK |

What are the laws on using characters, quotes, images and such from brands? If I started a local shop selling jewelry and crafts, am I allowed to use popular characters? I searched online but there are so many 'rules' and different opinions, it's hard to differentiate from what's right and wrong. A lot of people are saying it's illegal to use characters but how are others selling them at shops like Etsy, did they have to get permission?
Also, how would I pay taxes on my earnings? Do I just need to keep track of all my earnings and then report it when it comes to tax time?
Are there any permits I need to start selling? I'm not going to sell food but I want to make sure there isn't any other permissions I need. Thank you in advance for your response.

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Attorney answers 3

Best Answer

OK, first of all, slow down. That's alot of questions and issues. Attorneys on Avvo are glad to answer pointed questions and provide relevant information to be helpful, but it si not a place to avoid paying for a qualified lawyer in your area to help you get your business up and running. So on the character and quotes issue: You cannot use a trademarked or copyrighted character or image or on your jewelry and crafts. Period. As for what people are doing on etsy, I just settled six claims this year so far related to trademark infringement on etsy. Two on behalf of the alleged infringers and four on behalf of the infringed-upon designers/trademark holders. So its only a matter of time and luck as to when those you see on etsy wil be contacted. As to the quotes, quotes are generally not protected by copyright so you can use them as long as they are not associated with a trademark (think "Just Do it" or "One Ring to Rule Them All" or "Got Milk?") As to the rest of your question, you will need to sit down with a local lawyer and get some guidance. Make it one who also knows IP and internet law as it is a minefield out there tha tyou do not want to navigate without legal counsel. Especially if your business model relies in whole or in part on the IP of others.

The answers given are informational only and do not constitute legal advice. Please feel free to contact me if you want to obtain legal advice from me.


Set up an appointment to see an intellectual property attorney in the Oklahoma City area for an initial consultation. Many offer free consultations. Even if they charge for the consultation, it will be well worth the time and money.

The information provided in this answer does not create an attorney-client relationship. If you are interested in his legal services, feel free to call Chris at (303) 409-7635 at his law office in the Denver Tech Center. All initial consultations are free of charge.


It is good t hat you are considering this business venture, but you should not be using this web-site as a substitute for legal counsel. This web-site is designed match lawyers and clients, but you will need to retain and pay legal counsel to address the dozens of issues you need to deal with in order to legally and profitably pursue your venture. Indeed, you clearly do not understand many of the issues you need to grapple with.

You are asking us to give you a basic education on copyright, trademark, trade dress, patent, right of publicity, right of privacy and other such IP laws. Each image, character, quote or jewelry and craft design must be separately evaluated to by IP counsel to determine whether you can legally use it. In general, you cannot profit by associated your products with well-known characters and images unless you have licenses from the owners of the trademarks and copyrights in them. You also may face right of publicity issues, right of privacy issues and patent issues. You cannot possibly expect the general advice you can receive here to be sufficient for you to operate your business. As to tax, licensing and permits---get a lawyer. You can't start a business on a shoestring and expect to be successful---if you cannot afford legal counsel then you should think twice about this venture.

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