Selling Licensed or Trademarked Work

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They sell licensed fabric with college logos, popular characters, and many more licensed designs, but I heard that a fellow crafter got a cease and desist order the other day? What’s the story? Get an overview of what all this means from Maria Nerius.

Selling Trademarked Items

When walking craft shows, I cringe a little when I see a handmade Winnie the Pooh plush animal or a quilt with a college logo. These are licensed and trademarked characters or logos and selling them without permission and a legal agreement with the owner of the copyright or trademark is a big No-No for professional crafters. You can end up in big trouble, spending time, energy, and money if you aren’t properly licensed to sell this kind of work. By law, you are taking money out of the pockets of these companies, and when it comes to money, companies can get very serious.

Companies (and some artists) go through a complex and expensive process to copyright and trademark characters, logos, images, and designs. They are responsible for protecting their brands. Disney is famous for walking art and craft shows to make sure none of their licensed work is being used as part of a handmade item for sale. Disney immediately sends out a “Cease and Desist” order. In the end, they can legally confiscate the items and demand for payment from any items you have sold.

It is not worth the risk to mess with licensed designs, logos, or other copyrighted characters. Avoid using fabrics that include professional sports teams, cartoon characters, or branded images like a Coke bottle in items you’re going to sell. As a craft professional, use your own imagination to create — don’t rely others. You can create and trademark your own characters, designs, and logos! If you do want to create and sell items with your favorite college football team or even that silly old bear, contact the proper authority and negotiate an agreement.

Many creative people formally register their works and can then license a design in many ways — from fabric to napkins and greeting cards. It’s an excellent way to round out your portfolio and let a design bring in income for years to come. Have you licensed your work? Let us know your story.

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Comments

  1. Elisa Duesling says

    I researched this topic extensively! I was told that when you purchase the material from a fabric store or online, then you are paying the company for the item. You can sell the items to individuals, but not to companies. This is what I was told several years ago and I assume the same is still true, only common sense!

  2. DebbieKinil says

    I have found some interesting things about the use and restriction of licensed fabric bought in the public domain. NOTE: I am NOT a lawyer and not giving legal advice.

    Often fabric store employees will point out wording regarding the use of the fabric. The wording is printed on the fabric’s salvage.

    HOWEVER -There is nothing in federal or state statute that says a disclaimer on the binding of the selvage means anything at all to the purchaser. The purchaser of the items can’t be a 3rd party to the contract between the licensed manufacturer and the owner of the copyright.

    To be with in a legal use of licensed fabric, this what I have found based on some of my research into this situation.

    A crafter may use the fabric to make items for resale. HOWEVER..(the great however) the crafter MUST do the below to avoid problems when selling items made with licensed fabric.

    The crafter must clearly state that their item is handmade with the licensed fabric and the item is NOT a licensed product by that company . AND there must be a disclaimer that says you are not affiliated with the licensing company.

    For example …
    It’s a quilt with Disney Princess Fabric. It is NOT a Disney Princess Quilt.

    The disclaimer should go like this.
    ” This is not a licensed Disney Product, it is handcrafted w/care from licensed disney material. Sellername is not affilated with or sponsored by Disney.”

    NEVER, NEVER, REPRODUCE a licensed or copyrighted image, by painting, drawing, or using any type of copying.

    INSTEAD, buy the images. For example- if you use things like stickers use the PURCHASED sticker. Scanning the design into your computer and printing off as many as you want is copyright infringement and illegal.

  3. Bryan says

    Good insight. I have a related question.

    I’ve been making and selling jewelry from recycled bottle caps that have trademarked company logos on them (Sam Adams, Corona, etc.). Before I move onto selling these at craft fairs or pitching them to local shops, I want to look into any licenses I would need to acquire to legally sell these trademarked logos on recycled beer caps. Is there anything you can point me towards to help me here? Does it matter that my product is created with recycled materials that have trademarked logos on them?

    Thanks!

  4. Carolyn Thomas says

    I like all of the info. It helps alot.
    I found out that when I made my own pattern and made a crochet I-H Framall blacket for my son. That I was told that I couldnt sale it because of the Framall logo was on it. But, I feel like I made it out of my own head and made the pattern that I can sale it. What do you think? Carol

    • Deb says

      You are still copying the logo, whether you make a pattern to crochet it, paint your own version of it, or whatever. it is still a copyright issue, and you cannot sell it.

  5. Dee says

    I make Domino Pendant Jewelry with Fairies that I have gotten off of Google images. I had a problem at one time with someone saying I was not allowed to use the image that I had gotten off of a public domain site. I informed Outbid of the problems I was having with the whole copyright thing and I was told if I was using the images to write down the link information and where I had gotten it from to avoid this kind of problem. So my question is if a public domain site like google images has oodles and oodles of images on it and I write down the name of the company who has put it on there to be used can I still be held liable for what they are putting on there site to be used? Thank You Dee

    • Lisa says

      Google images is not a public domain site. It is a search engine and it will find images, both royalty free and not. Just because something is on the internet, does not make it free. Even if an image does not belong to a large company, like Disney, it DOES belong to the artist, even if that artist is a 15 year old doodling in his or her spare time – that’s just how copyright laws work. There are a lot of artists that do it for the joy of doing it, have no interest in profiting, and would love nothing more than for their art to reach the far corners of the Earth, so it’s not like you can’t ever use an image for free. The bottom line is, unless the website hosting the content specifically says their images are royalty free (in which case use some common sense – Disney will NEVER be royalty free – and take a screen shot of the page and image where it says you have the right to use it free of charge), ask permission. You may just get a simple “of course,” you may get some conditions and an expectation of compensation (which is completely fair because you are profiting off THEIR art), which is tax-deductible, by the way, even if this is just a hobby for you, or you may be told “no.” Either way, respect the artist.

  6. Suzanne Broadhurst says

    Very useful info for selling. I’m wondering now about gifting? Can items be crafted (such as plastic canvas coasters) using a self-made design from the general idea of a college logo, if the items are given solely as gifts?

  7. says

    Google images are NOT public domain. Public domain means the copyright has expired or the creator willingly put the item in the public domain. Just because something is on the internet and visible to the public, that does not make it public domain.

  8. Wendy Valente says

    I was wondering if you have received any information regarding this. I am making an item out of recycled beer products and am having a hard time finding information on legality. I’d really appreciate any information you have. ~wendy

  9. Susan Tigard says

    I want to make aprons using college fabric I purchased at Walmart and sell the aprons at craft fairs. Is this legal as I already paid for it? What if I sell cookies for a little bit more than the cost of the apron and gave the apron away for free to those who buy the cookies? Please let me know as crafting season is starting.

  10. Michelle MacLeod says

    Hi , I’m an artist and I love to draw and paint Disney Cartoons.I have even designed Disney furniture. If possible how can I go about selling these pieces?

  11. Jessica says

    This is not a very informative article. It simply states never use anything that was every copyrighted/trademarked…ever. I beg to differ. If I buy an NFL licensed jersey, can I sell it? Of course. If you buy licensed fabric in a store, can you make something with it and sell it? Of course.

  12. Matt says

    I have a question. If someone was to design furniture and scribe in the wood for example a name of their favorite team and then paint the team name the colors of the team. It would be their own design. Not copying logos etc. just cutting the names in. Would that be legal or not??

  13. Brigitte says

    I paint patio pavers. Some look like football, baseball player, and basketball players. I hand paint the logos but just recently heard about infringements. If I purchase the team logos and use them on my pavers would I be on the right side of things? I am not a huge crafter selling tons at craft shows, it’s a hobby but at the same time I don’t want to get in trouble.

  14. says

    Hi, looking for some advice, just starting out with sweet cart hire and making sweet cones.
    I have been asked to make some personalised sweet cones
    Using the disney characters on the label iknow this is breach of copyright ,
    so can i use instead a printed wrapping paper. Disney and roll a sleeve insert for inside then add a label plain text just saying thank you for coming to my party. Would that be okay?

  15. Aisha says

    I would like to ask if I have a vintage Louis Vuitton handbag that Is damage. I cut it and made a keychain , painted on it some pattern and sell it. Is it illegal?

    Thank you

  16. AG says

    If you use a program like Cricut has and use their images you have paid for can’t you sell the product then?

  17. Joe says

    I am a crafter making picture frames and from what I understand, I can purchase a licensed sports decal from a authorized sports store, apply the decal to my craft picture and then sell the picture at a profit BUT I CANNOT COPY AND SELL THIS DECAL.
    So every decal I use is the decal that I purchased from a licensed dealer…

  18. Emma says

    I’m a paper crafter, and have several die cutting machines. I have purchased several copyright items legally for my machines and what I choose to make and do with them I thought was protected under the Copyright Law’s First Sale Doctrine!?!

  19. Brooke says

    This is a great article! I was debating on weither or not to make and sell mugs with characters on them. For example Star Wars and Nightmare Before Christmas. I made a few for Christmas presents, but haven’t sold any at craft shows. I think they would sell well, but don’t want to get into trouble. I have seen some artists use these characters but alter them in some way. For example adding sunglasses, mustaches, paint splashes and changing up the design style in their own artistic way. Clearly it’s still that recognizable character, but it’s been altered. Is this approach ok to make and sell or is this still not acceptable? Any feedback would be appreciated!

  20. James Colavecchia says

    I’m a quilter. I make baby crib size quilts with Disney panel prints. I buy the panels from a fabric store and quilt them with my own quilting design on them right over the Disney panel prints. I sell them at crafts shows, only one or two at a time. Am I breaking any copy rights doing this. I thought when I buy the material at a fabric store that I am paying the company for item. I do not copy any Disney prints, they are all bought from fabric stores.

    • Toby says

      I was recently told that one can sell a limited number of items with licensed characters, etc., to individuals but not to big box companies like Walmart. How can I find out if this is true or false?

  21. Joe says

    I’m curious about the whole bottle cap design thing as well. Seems like it’s common, but I want to be sure. I’d like to begin crafting with them but I’d rather not waste the time and effort! Thank you!

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